Posted Feb 25 2010 10:07AM
Everyone thought it was a big deal when New York Knicks general manager Donnie Walsh cleared out enough salary cap space at the trade deadline to sign not one, but two max free agents this summer.
Not big enough.
Everyone figured that when Pat Riley couldn't come up with a game-changer of a deal for the stretch run this season that he was saving up all of his poker chips to get Dwyane Wade an A-list playmate as the grand plan in Miami.
Think grander. Think bolder. That's what the Knicks and Heat are doing.
Quite simply, it makes no sense to limit your vision or your reach, so the Heat and the Knicks won't. Think LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh all together on the same team. That's the play.
The Three Musketeers. The Three Amigos. Three-mendous.
Call them whatever you want, but there is every reason to believe that the Knicks and Heat will make the calls and make the tries to make that happen.
Imagine the scenes when the clock strikes midnight on July 1 ...
An executive Learjet, lifts off from a private airport in Westchester County (N.Y.), stuffed with Walsh, coach Mike D'Antoni and enough leftover Wall Street bonus cash to fill Lake Erie, and heads toward a late-night rendezvous in Akron, Ohio.
About 1,100 miles away, a Cessna Citation X leaves the Opa-Locka (Fla.) Executive terminal with a Hall of Fame club president at the controls and a co-pilot wearing a long scarf, the goggles of a World War I flying ace and a No. 3 jersey, headed north.
Talk about your amazing race.
The Knicks and Heat shoot for the trifecta. Why couldn't it happen? Why shouldn't it happen? Some around the league already think it will.
If the appeal is supposed to be getting a pair of individual superstars to come together and pool their talents on the same team, then the logical extension -- and the biggest splash -- is to make the same pitch to all three.
In Miami and New York, the appeal would be for the threesome to remember the bonds they forged while playing for USA Basketball, where D'Antoni served as an assistant coach, and the dominance that went into winning the Olympic gold medal at Beijing in 2008. If that experience was fun, wouldn't grabbing the entire NBA by the throat for the foreseeable future be a giddy delight?
Surely, they'd be able to do that even if every other player on the roster were a minimum salary player. And they would be.
The impediment, of course, is the money. Each of them would have to leave something on the table. And, so far, no maximum level free agent in the NBA has ever done that.
Still, even if the Knicks were encumbered by Eddy Curry's $11 million, they could squeeze all three in, assuming everybody made a bit of a sacrifice. For James, any location outside of Cleveland will cost him $30 million for the extra year he could get -- according to NBA rules -- from the Cavs. Then you tack on the incremental raises he'd be eligible for and that probably amounts to another $36 million.
Hey, $66 million is nothing to sniff at, even if you're already wealthier than a few low level oil sheiks. Yet LeBron is much more of a wild card if you figure that whatever he gives up on the front end of his basketball salary will come back if he adds a few titles to his resume.
And isn't it all about the rings more than the other things? And didn't Michael Jordan play for way under his market value, until those last two years in Chicago, in order to let the Bulls assemble the complementary parts around him?
Would Wade, who already has one ring, give up part of his paycheck to get another one or five with LeBron and Bosh as the toasts of Broadway rather than risk becoming a wasted spot of spilled suntan oil around South Beach?
Bosh has made a few noises, asking why he should be the one to move on from Toronto when he can stay put and be the highest-paid center of the Raptors' universe. Really? Would James and Wade in New York be enough to lure him?
As much as there is the appeal for the Knicks to try the triple play, it could be easier to see it happening in Miami. For one, the Heat have to recruit only two outsiders, not three. Then there's the appeal of the South Beach lifestyle. And the Heat have an up-and-comer already on the roster in Michael Beasley.
As an inducement, Riley might even offer that if LeBron, Wade and Bosh would join forces in Miami, he could guarantee the services of a Hall of Fame coach named -- ahem -- Riley.
There's no reason it shouldn't happen. While everyone in the NBA is thinking big, the Knicks and the Heat will think even bigger.
Miami wants more than two to tango.
New York, New York, New York. So good the Knicks will pitch it thrice.
Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here.
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