I rode to Massachusetts this weekend in a car without a working radio that was three-quarters full of basketball fans, so we passed the time on the way up by thinking out every conceivable scenario for the NBA’s free agent class. We did the same thing on the way back, using the most up-to-date information (Dirk! Pierce! Joe Johnson! Amar’e!). Here’s what we believe:
1) The Knicks actually did something right. After two years of “planning,” the Knicks looked like a rudderless ship as recently as Thursday, but at a poker table where everyone was afraid to make the first move, the Knicks pushed a sizable portion of their chips to the center of the table. Amar’e Stoudemire is a good player on a slow, predictable decline, but Chris the Knicks Fan insists Amar’e is one of the smartest players he’s ever seen. This means the end of David Lee in New York, which messes up your fantasy keeper league team but not much else. (Slight UPDATE: The uninsured part deserves some scrutiny. Okay, a lot. But still.)
2) Going to Chicago is the brave move… for Dwyane Wade. Even my mom knows Wu-Tang is for the children, and it appears Dwyane Wade is too. The convention line of thought at the moment is that D-Wade is likely to go to Chicago because he’s locked in a custody battle with his ex-wife and his children are there. You’d have to be the coldest-hearted Heat fan to hate him for leaving because of his kids, and it’s a good reason to leave, but there’s a potentially better one. LeBron’s decision is magnified because he’s quasi-understood to be “chasing history,” whatever that means: More than Michael, more than Kobe, or bringing a title to Cleveland. Wade, a young champion, seems immune from all this and, family drama aside, perfectly willing to stay in Miami and play on 50-win teams. That’s why I think the bold move for him is to go to Chicago, and wedge himself into the Kobe/LeBron discussion. Could he beat them both if he went to the Bulls? I absolutely think so.
3) LeBron isn’t an afterthought, but no one’s going to wait for him if they find something better. I think the whole “LeBron signs and the dominoes fall” narrative is coming to its end, as a prime result of the two factors discussed above. The Knicks took a “F***-it” approach to wait-and-see, and if Wade thinks he can win a title in Chicago, why would he wait for the word from LeBron?
4) Joe Johnson is or is not overpaid. We hashed out this discussion and ended up agreeing to disagree. Person A said that Johnson is the rare truly effective, occasionally game-changing guard; Person B said that he’d be willing to grant all that, but that the maximum contract rule makes it absurd that he’ll be making as much or more than players who are better than him (like Wade and James). I’m person B.
5. Paul Pierce. In light of Pierce’s greatness/goodness over the last three years, it’s worth revisiting the Celtics team that made it within two victories of the NBA Finals with Pierce and Antoine Walker as 1 and 1A’s. That’s what we told ourselves, at least. Now think about how Antoine Walker played basketball. So yes, he’s getting old and doesn’t bring it every day, but Paul Pierce has been good at basketball for a very long time. For whatever reason, I’m just sayin’.
Tuesday, July 6th. Back in the saddle again.