Alright, we all know that there's a certain sports network that seems to think that LeBron James wants to play for the Knicks. Most basketball people know that there's almost no chance that LeBron doesn't sign his contract extension. I can't blame some for worrying (Windhorst even thinks that LeBron may wait just to fuck with us), but I'm pretty sure we're in the clear.
This has gone on for a few years now and it's just gotten annoying. Hell, the ABJ even parodied it Saturday.
Then there's the Knicks, why would LeBron leave a team that made the playoffs (and took the Pistons to 7) for a team in such a mess? GM/coach Isiah Thomas has become a punchline and his drafting of Renaldo Balkman this past Wednesday may have the been the the highlight of the Draft. No one really knows why Thomas picked Balkman at 20. He wasn't in the official draft guide, he wasn't on most draft boards and some people even thought you could get him as a free agent after the draft. One of Thomas's reasons is that the Suns would've picked him at 21 (which the Suns deny). There are Ronaldo Blackman (former Knick player who was actually good) jokes flying around the internet and Thomas generally looks like a fool.
So why did Isiah Thomas pick a 6'6'' power forward with no offensive skills? While on NBA Matchup, Greg Anthony, seems to have found the answer (no link, this is a transript):
One thing you got to keep in mind that both Balkman and Mardy Collins are represented by Leon Rose. Who is Leon Rose? That's LeBron James's agent. So there's a lot of possibility that this could be one of those tit for tats where they just want them to know that "hey we're thinking about youin the future if you, LeBron James, ever decide you want to move on and not stay a part of the Cleveland Cavaliers resurrection". So, if that's the case, they definitely laid the ground work. However, it was a P.R. nightmare; something they're going to deal with for the rest of the offseason. Something you didn't necessarily need after going though the debacle with Larry Brown.
So there you have it folks, Isiah Thomas used the 20th and 29th pick in the first round to take players who share an agent with LeBron James. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense: Thomas knows he only has one year to turn the franchise around and everyone thinks he would take players who would help him this year. But no, Thomas goes the other way; he decides to waste the picks in the '06 draft so he can start making in roads on LeBron James. It's actually quite brilliant; it doesn't even matter who you draft at 20, just make sure he shares an agent with LeBron James. Who cares that Balkman has no offensive skills and you could've gotten him in the second round? He shares an agent with LeBron. Perfect.
We've heard that Balkman is a Rodman/Artest type player; a hustle guy who loves to play defense and get rebounds. Isiah played with Rodman and coached Artest, so he knows how important these guys are to winning teams. But the consensus is that Thomas could've gotten his guy at least at 29, if not in the second round or as a undrafted free agent. Balkman was far and away the biggest reach in the draft and by all accounts a terrible pick. But not to Greg Anthony, drafting Balkman is just another way for the Knicks to lure LeBron away from Cleveland.
And by the way, LeBron can't leave for two more seasons. The Cavs are the only team that can offer him a contract this offseason, and next offseason he is a restricted free agent. And if you don't think the Cavs are matching any contract James signs, you are insane. So not until the offseason of '08 can LeBron leave with the Cavs having no say in the matter.
Why the GM of the Knicks would waste a draft in 2006 to make in-roads on a player who won't be available until the offseason of 2008 is beyond me. Especially when that same GM/coach has a one year window to turn the team around. One would think he would do everything possible to succeed in that one year (you know, so he could have a job past 06), but no.
Well done ESPN, well done.
[update: fixed some gramatical errors and cleaned up some passages]