So far, NBA free agent circus has been a whole lot of nothing
LeBron, Dwyane Wade will both likely stay put -- NBA free agency has been dull
Knicks bagged first big name in Amar'e Stoudemire; other stars not likely to follow
History doesn't mean anything to today's players; weather is often a big factor
Welcome to the NBA circus, where LeBron James ponders, the Knicks beg and the Celtics just keep getting older.
So far, it's been a big, fat, nothing. LeBron is still in Cleveland, D-Wade is still in Miami (no thanks to Heat fans who were sent to the wrong airport terminal to welcome him home), Joe Johnson has agreed to stay in Atlanta, Dirk Nowitzki signed on with Dallas, Rudy Gay stayed with Memphis, and Paul Pierce opted out, only to stay with the Celtics. Wade, Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer are waiting to see what LeBron is going to do.
LeBron's decision is going to have a great impact on the million-dollar babies waiting to change teams, but it also alters the NBA's Eastern Conference in a big way. Five of the six teams (Cavaliers, Bulls, Heat, Knicks, Nets, Clippers) that courted LeBron are from the East. The Clippers have no chance.
LeBron James is not going to the Knicks. Millions of trees have been toppled so that the New York tabloids can drool about LeBron, but the Knicks don't have enough to offer. The message from Madison Square Garden seems to be, "You should all come to New York because we are New York.''
The Knicks bagged the first big name when Amar'e Stoudemire took a five-year, $100 million deal. Now Amar'e is trying to woo LeBron -- and there's speculation that Carmelo Anthony, if he doesn't accepted a $65 million extension with the Nuggets, will play one more year in Denver, then come to New York as a free agent -- but the Knicks simply don't have enough to offer.
Today's young ballers don't think of Madison Square Garden as the mecca of basketball. NBA superstars don't need Madison Avenue to go global. The Knicks are not winners, Stoudemire doesn't play defense and the Northeast climate is not exactly a great draw. We've seen this dynamic in my hometown of Boston.
The Celtics in this century will always have trouble attracting big free agents. Kids today have little regard for the fabled parquet floor, the 1960 championship banners, or lingering cigar smoke from Red Auerbach. There was a time when the Celtics were the most famous franchise in all of basketball, but in 2010 it's all about Los Angeles and the Lakers. The Lakers have Kobe and movie stars and the championship trophy.
Oh, they have weather, too.
The 2010-11 Celtics never figured to be players in this "wild" (thus far, pretty tame) free agent spree of July 2010, but they have stunned their own fans with an apparent commitment to the same old gang that looked tired and broken-down for much of last season. We figured Doc Rivers was going home to Orlando to watch his kids play ball. We figured Ray Allen would sign with a new team. We figured Pierce might opt out and attempt to get a max deal with somebody like the Clippers.
None of the above happened. Doc decided to stick around and make another run with his old gang. Kevin Garnett is on the books for two more years and Pierce agreed to a four-year, $61 million deal after opting out of his $21 million deal for next season. Allen will be probably be the next to sign up for another hitch with the old Green. There's even speculation that the Celts will take on Shaquille O'Neal to plug their center hole while Kendrick Perkins recovers from knee surgery.
Amazing. Pierce will be 33 next year and is now on board to play 17 seasons with the Celtics. Garnett has already played 15 NBA seasons and will be up to 17 seasons when his contract expires. He's 34. Allen has played 14 NBA seasons and turns 35 this month. That's a lot of NBA miles for three guys. Add Shaq and it's got to be the oldest team in the history of the NBA. The odds of all them being healthy for the 2011 playoffs seem small.
Meanwhile, the Cavs, Bulls, Knicks, Nets, Heat and Clippers wait on LeBron. King James trips the first domino and a flood of free agent signings is supposed to follow.
NBA insiders claim James has cooled on Chicago, but the King in the Windy City could draw more stars for a championship push next year. The longer this goes on, the greater the speculation that LeBron may leave Cleveland, that he's using the extra to time to try to team up with another elite free agent, like Bosh or Wade.
The Celtics exposed the Cavaliers in last year's playoffs.
The Knicks spent two years slashing their payroll and purging their roster in order to get ready for big signings this summer.
The Stoudemire signing has inspired Knick fans, but they're in for a fall when LeBron signs elsewhere.
"Both guys, Dwyane and LeBron, I'm pretty sure would love to play with me,'' said a hopeful Stoudemire. "And vice versa. So hopefully, we can get one of those guys to join me here this year.''
Sorry, New York. It's not going to happen.
Dan Shaughnessy is a columnist for The Boston Globe. Read more of his columns here.
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