7/2: Knicks and Lakers Free Agency Woes

Notes: Lamarcus Aldridge has cancelled meeting with Knicks. Setup second appointment with Lakers.

There is an identity crisis in the NBA and it is centered around New York and LA. This morning I was in the car driving, listening to Colin Cowherd on the radio. He was taking calls and two New York Knicks fans called on to the show consecutively. The first was mentioning how the Bucks signing Greg Monroe was a blessing and he wasn’t and max contract guy. He went on to mention next year how Kevin Durant is a free agent. Colin Cowherd went into one of his usual Jerry Seinfeld sounding rants about how absurd and ignorant that comment was and that the Knicks have no real assets or attractiveness outside of Carmelo Anthony and even he is a turn off. I believe he compared Durant to the second hottest girl on a college campus that is dating the a “booger eating science nerd.” The second caller called in and was offended and felt the Knicks had something to offer and Colin was incorrect. It was a lot of ranting and irrational responses but Colin does have a good point.

The Lakers have just come off two horrible meetings with Lamarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan. Lamarcus Aldridge is rumored to have said the Lakers did not leave a strong impression, while Jordan felt it was “underwhelming.” Kevin Love re-signed on a max deal to stay in Cleveland and to have the chance to win again. The Lakers are now in the second day of free agency with the certainty they will not be signing a premier or max contract free agent. They are now looking at targeting players like Tobias Harris and Robin Lopez.

The Knicks missed the boat with Greg Monroe and have signed Arron Afflalo, not a terrible player just not a great move for a team that is in shambles. It brings the question of why no one wants to play for these big market teams? The answer is quite simple. They don’t have a single player worth playing with.

The Lakers are the easiest to address because of the observations one can quickly come to. Kobe Bryant will be 37 in August. He is coming off his third surgery in three years and has played less than 30 games in the last two seasons. Just three years ago, Kobe dawned the nickname Vino, wine, as he had miraculously discovered the Fountain of Youth and gotten better with age. A player that once graced the world with a highly competitive personality and at times alienated himself from other teammates is now struggling to find health at his age. The Lakers invested way too much money in a player that 5 years ago was crowned with his 5th championship and we could still argue was the best player in the world. He has always been loyal to the franchise, we forget the dark years he was a step away from being a Clipper, and the franchise has also shown its loyalty towards Bryant and signed him to a $48 mil deal to close out his career.

That plan essentially backfired when the NBA vetoed a brilliantly crafted trade to bring a questionably healthy Chris Paul, ended up being very healthy, to the Lakers for rapidly aging Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol. (Where the fuck is Odom now?) The Dwight Howard and Steve Nash experiment failed and you are left with Robert Sacre anchoring your team. The Lakers thought that by showing this loyalty they could lure in free agents by exemplifying that they take care of their own. But that loyalty was seen among the league  as reckless, careless and a poor investment on a player far from his prime. The Lakers were faced with consequences that would become irreversible. As stated the bad has been a lack to attract free agents to the team and two straight years failing to even taste the opportunity to make the playoffs.

But no one ever expected the good that was to come out of this. The organization was so atrocious that they received two lottery picks. Julius Randle, missed all but 5 minutes of last season, is looking better than ever and is expected to make an immediate impact and last week’s second overall pick, who is expected to be Kobe’s replacement. D’Angelo Russell brings that innate ability to score at will while being the best passer to come out of college since Magic Johnson. No one even saw Jordan Clarkson being half as good as he was. He exploded onto the scene last year and dominated for a team that could barely keep 5 players healthy enough to play every night. An easy top 10 pick if we were to redo the draft.

Yet with all this potential, the Lakers are still unable to lure a major free agent. Truth is that no one wants to play with an aging Kobe and we don’t know how effective these young players will be on the court yet. Guys like Lamarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, DeAndre Jordan and Greg Monroe are all searching for an opportunity to win today. The Lakers can’t promise that. Even if Aldridge was to join the team there is no guarantee the Lakers could break into the postseason in a very competitive west.

The Knicks are another story but have the same answer. Many believe last summer the Lakers dodged a bullet when Carmelo Anthony opted to re-sign with his home team and stay in New York. The Knicks would have never thought that having Carmelo Anthony would hurt their chances to lure in free agents, not in a million years but yet he has. The Knicks have a premier player that tends to be overly protective of the ball when he is one the court. He is criticized for shooting the ball too much and lacks elite leadership qualities. He plays his best when he is paired with a strong minded veteran as we saw in 2009 with the combination of Chauncy Billups alongside Melo in Denver.

Melo isn’t entirely to be blamed for this lack of  a free agent lure. The front office has been boarder line useless, actually just plain useless in managing the team. James Dolan fucked the team when he made the asinine decision to send his entire team, literally 4 out of 5 starters, to Denever for Melo when he could have waited a few months and just signed the bastard. But instead, cleaned house. He then proceeded to make idiotic acquisitions such as trading for injury prone Andrea Bargnani. Then he hired Phil Jackson, love the guy but he has no executive knowledge whatsoever. Jackson then attempted to replicate what the Warriors and Nets have succeeded at which is hiring a point guard that has 0 coaching experience. Except he hired Derek Fisher and then felt that it was a good idea to run a triangle offense on a team that has not even a half decent big man, in a point guard driven league. These failures have added up and as a New York Jets fan (yes I know) I can tell you first hand that New Yorkers are impatient with mediocrity. Jackson ended up making the best decision that he possibly could have and it wasn’t a second too late. He drafted Kristas Porzingis, who every Knick fan obviously hates, a pivotal move that can pay off in the long run.

The Knicks missed out of Greg Mornoe but that’s ok and I credit their drive to sign free agents. They just came to an agreement this morning with free agent Arron Afflalo and are heavily pursuing Patrick Beverly of the Rockets. Robin Lopez and David West are both linked to a possible deal but both seem unlikely. They are even sitting down with Lamarcus Aldridge. But even on their pure drive and aggressiveness alone, they still can’t get big name free agents.

So, how do you fix this? You have to take a page out of the Warriors book. The team that was just proclaimed champions at the end of the season was not built on free agent signings. They were based on the ability to artfully maneuver the draft. If the team hadn’t taken risks on Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, they would not be in the position they are. The team was able to build and strengthen their core through the draft and thus created an allure that brought Andre Iguodala to the Bay. Iguodala was a driving force that propelled the Warriors over the Cavaliers. You see my point, its a chain reaction. Greg Popavich is a savant when it comes to constructing his organization through the draft. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Paker were all drafted by the organization and have all succeeded in San Antonio. He even was able to deal George Hill, who he drafted, for up and coming superstar, Kawhi Leonard, who he essentially drafted and is now in the lead to sign their first marquee free agent in forever in Aldridge.

Five years ago if we were to talk about free agency attractiveness, you would have laughed in my face if I would have said that out of the four New York and LA teams, that the Clippers would have the best chances at signing free agents. Last year, only the Cavaliers, Rockets, and Mavericks were constructed from teams with cores based on free agent signings that made the playoffs. All the rest are mostly constructed around the foundation of drafted players. Those drafted players grow and mature and that attracts free agents. Players no longer need the big city allure now to succeed. Lebron James and Kevin Durant are the two best players in the world and play in mid evil shit holes called Cleveland and Oklahoma City. The expansion of social media has negated the big city benefits and now makes every fucker who chooses a star. Both the Lakers and the Knicks need to get with the times. The analytical aspect of your organization is seen as the biggest factor in free agent signings, as Lamarcus Aldridge so rudely iterated to the Lakers. Build up your organization and give these players the help the need to grow as BASKETBALL players, not movie stars.

The Lakers have slowly began to modernize themselves and partially removed their heads from their asses. They adapted to their environment and realized that in order to succeed in the west you need a point guard. They have been drafting wisely with Randle and Clarkson and now D’Angelo Russell. The Knicks drafted Porzings, who, if he pans out to his projections can be the next Dirk Nowitzki. But now it is time for both to update themselves some more and face the harsh truth of reality. Continue to grow, get with the times and don’t be afraid to change your philosophies. Both teams shouldn’t be hell bent on the opportunity to sign a marquee free agent and settle for growth and re-building with guys like Tobias Harris and Robin Lopez. The NBA is a rapidly changing league and if you fall behind it is very difficult to catch up.

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