LeBron James’ future in Cleveland isn’t promising, and Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin could see James picking the Big Apple instead of Hollywood.
With everything going on with the Cleveland Cavaliers organization this summer, the likelihood of LeBron James committing long-term is slim — and I’m talking minuscule. There have been he said-she said reports ever since the Finals concluded, and, on top of that, the Cavaliers won’t be able to topple the Golden State Warriors as long as their superteam remains in tact.
James’ speculated landing spot is Los Angeles with the Lakers. They’re building for the future. The plethora of young talent on the roster is more than capable of contending with two possible stars joining the team next summer. However, Blake Griffin doesn’t want to go all-in on that theory.
“I could see him going to New York before L.A.,” said Griffin on the View From The Cheap Seats podcast. “When you go to the Garden, it’s like just a completely different feeling. The energy, there seems like there’s just a continual buzz the entire game … Even last year when you go play them, it’s still there.”
Madison Square Garden is like none other. Manhattan is the basketball mecca, and all of New York City enjoys when great players come down and perform. It’s a unique aura even sitting in the Garden, and I imagine gracing the court is similar to being at the same party as Rihanna.
James has elevated his game every single time he’s gone on the road to play the Knicks. Back in 2009, a 24-year-old King dropped 52 points and handed out 11 dimes in one of the most infamous games in NBA history. A couple of days later, the league reviewed the contest and reversed the ruling on one of James’ rebounds, which dropped his total from 10 to nine, stripping away the first 50-point triple-double since Kareem-Abdul Jabbar’s in 1975. In subsequent years, James got his revenge and recorded two legitimate triple-doubles.
On a macro-level, LeBron has always fared well at the Garden. He’s played 24 games there thus far, boasting averages of 28.5 points, 7.1 assists and 6.8 rebounds. Cleveland is 17-7 in those meetings. If James decided to shock the world and head back to the East coast, I’m sure Knicks fan would put any malice aside. In a weak conference, New York would be close to contention for the first time in a long time, and Griffin, who wants to be clear about his lack of sources, thinks James is “brewing” something.
“Honestly, I don’t see him coming to L.A., period. Listen, again; I have no idea. I think something is brewing with him and his group of guys. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think something’s brewing and they’re going to try and make that work.”
The group that Griffin is talking about is the Banana Boat Crew: James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. They’ve mentioned playing with each in the past, and we’d expect that conglomerate to go 82-0 in their first season together. However, their union seems unlikely.
As we know, Hoodie Melo has spent all summer in New York working out despite being in trade rumors. He’s open about waiving his no-trade clause. For the last couple of weeks, the Houston Rockets kept getting mentioned as having the best chance to land Anthony, and they had already facilitated a trade for Paul earlier this offseason. Daryl Morey is reluctant to talk an extension with CP3 until next summer, and there’s the chance that Melo, Paul and James are free agents all at the same time.
For Wade, we don’t know what his future looks like. The Chicago Bulls are expected to buy him out in the coming months, and he can go to almost any team he chooses. The big question is what Wade wants to do with the rest of his career; does he want to contend? Or does he want to get another payday? Maybe Flash throws us a curveball and decides he only has one more campaign left and signs with the Miami Heat to retire. There is a myriad of questions.
After hearing Griffin on the pod, I kept asking myself the same thing — why would James want to play for the Knicks?
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Think about it: the organization is a travesty. It starts with ownership and trickles down through the front office. Even with Phil Jackson gone, the Knicks don’t have a clear direction, and the way they treat their best players is just puzzling. Kristaps Porzingis, along with Anthony, has also gotten mentioned in trade talks. That’s fine, but, if you expect this young man to be the future of your franchise, why put him through that? It’s not smart, and drafting Porzingis was the highlight of Jackson’s tenure. The return may be solid, but KP has the chance to become one of the two or three best frontcourt players once he hits his prime, and that would equal great things for the Knicks as a franchise.
Next, they botched free agency this summer; completely flummoxed it. After picking Frank Ntilikina in this year’s draft, they wanted to find a mentor for him so he wouldn’t get overwhelmed starting from day one. That’s a sound strategy. There were a handful of solid point guards who were available this summer:
The Knicks got none of them. Instead, they spent $71 million on Tim Hardaway Jr. That signing isn’t the worst in the world, but, given the circumstances and needs of the team, the front office could’ve done a better job with their spending, especially when Teague, Hill and Mills all signed for less than $60 million. After waiting a while, New York got Ramon Sessions, who’s a solid guard and more than capable of mentoring Ntilikina.
LeBron is already coming from a dysfunctional franchise. Going to another is asinine. Dan Gilbert didn’t bring back David Griffin because the two couldn’t agree on financials, which is also asinine because the latter gentleman was the architect behind the team who brought the Cavaliers their first title in franchise history. Griffin helped orchestrate the Kevin Love deal, creating the Big 3. He then worked out the trade that brought J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert over from the Knicks, and those two were huge in bringing home the title in 2016.
Neither the Knicks nor the Cavs know what they want to do for the future. James does — he wants to win titles because his window is closing, and, thanks to the Warriors, there’s no room for error. The Lakers seem likely because Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have a vision, and what they’ve done thus far is moving them closer to it.
Magic and the Lakers became enamored with Lonzo Ball and selected him second overall in this year’s draft. That signaled their readiness to move on from D’Angelo Russell, and the Brooklyn Nets gladly took the 21-year-old even if he was included in Timofey Mozgov’s salary dump. Additionally, Los Angeles has other pieces like Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson who can be packaged together in their hunt for a superstar.
James’ decision next summer is going to be about basketball, but not entirely. The signs point to the City of Angels because the James family already has a house out there, making it a second home to LeBron, Savannah and their three kids. If he were to move to New York, it’d take time for everyone to get comfortable, and that could also be a hindrance for James and his partners while running their business. Being in a familiar area means LeBron has one less worry, and that means a lot when there’s pressure building to add another title to your resume.
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