Please consume this column with the following caveat: there’s no indication LeBron James will join the Knicks. Beyond the internet trying to read tea leaves and media maven Stephen A. Smith pining for the move, it hasn’t been mentioned in NBA circles, at least the ones I frequent, as something being discussed.
In fact, there’s a powerful agent on the record, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, saying there won’t be a trade — to the Knicks or anywhere else. LeBron doesn’t own a no-trade clause but no team would make a deal without his full consent.
It’s LeBron James, after all. His relocation would require a collaborative effort. And as it relates to the Hall of Famer’s future, I wouldn’t read too much into Paul and Leon Rose breaking bread Friday, as The Post reported. It’s important for the Knicks to be on good business terms with Klutch Sports because of the agency’s vast clientele in the NBA, not because LeBron may or may not become available at some point.
But I can say with certainty that it would make a lot of sense — basketball-wise — for LeBron to want to leave the Lakers. And for the first time in his very long career, the Knicks (32-18) are a better option because they’re closer to a title than his own team (26-25).
That wasn’t so obvious Saturday, when the Lakers rolled over the Knicks in the fourth quarter of their 113-105 victory. But the Knicks were also a skeleton crew without OG Anunoby, Julius Randle and Quentin Grimes. They had a bad game, missed a ton of shots, and the injuries finally caught up with them. They’re better than the Lakers, as they showed earlier this season at Crypto.com Arena.
They really just had an off night.
“We were just missing shots,” Isaiah Hartenstein said. “Top to bottom. It was just one of those games where we were missing stuff.”
Regardless, James must understand he has a very mediocre team in La La Land. He’s getting antsy. The four-time champ tweeted an hourglass emoji on Wednesday, sending the clear message of impatience and time running out.
James then declined to clarify that tweet before his Garden game Saturday. He also didn’t want to discuss his contract option with the Lakers and his future. No perfunctory ‘I love it here!’ or ‘My preference is to stay!’
Just one-word answers to those two questions: ‘No.’
Smart people watching the situation believe this is a play from James to push the Lakers to make a significant trade to upgrade the roster. In other words, use their draft picks to give him something better to work with. Atlanta’s Dejounte Murray comes to mind. Passive-aggressive tweeting wouldn’t be a new strategy from LeBron, who has no use for salvaging future assets. He used this playbook in Cleveland.
And really, who could blame LeBron? He’s the oldest player in the NBA still putting up All-Star numbers and taking Father Time to a split decision.
But his point guard is D’Angelo Russell, who pulled a Houdini in the playoffs and, for some bogus reason, was re-signed. Russell runs so counter to winning that he was benched for the entire fourth quarter Saturday, when the Lakers pulled away. Austin Reaves is the third-best player after James and Anthony Davis. Rui Hachimura is the power forward. Max Christie is coming off the bench. Jaxson Hayes and Christian Wood got minutes Saturday.
What are we doing here? They’re the L.A. Ham & Eggers.
James is still good enough, when motivated, to push a good team to a championship level. That’s why he makes more sense on the Knicks or the Suns or the Heat. But he’s no longer good enough to carry a bad team like he did with the Cavs circa 2007 or 2018. Or the Lakers, circa 2024.
That doesn’t mean magic can’t still happen when James is being LeBron. And he was certainly motivated at MSG. He loves playing here, calling it Saturday, “One of the prestigious arenas to play in the history of sports.” He wouldn’t leave the place without a victory.
James finished with 24 points in 40 minutes of a national TV spectacle, replete with celebrities in the stands and eyeballs watching No. 23. The environment wasn’t surprising because the NBA still needs James. It’s Adam Silver’s sad reality that he’s relying on a 39-year-old as his biggest attraction.
Nobody has emerged to take LeBron’s throne as the face of the NBA, partly because Steph Curry’s Warriors are even worse than the Lakers, partly because the league’s best players are internationals with accents (Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid), partly because they’re all centers, and partly because Jokic, in particular, has no interest in marketing himself.
Imagine if Tim Duncan didn’t have Kobe Bryant to carry the torch.
LeBron, unlike Jokic, loves the attention. The spotlight. The drama. He always has. Personality-wise, he was always a good fit for MSG. But it was never a better fit basketball-wise until this season.
Not saying it’s going to happen, but I like the idea.