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Jokes Abound for Knicks, Whose Only Hope Is the Last Laugh

Mar 2, 2010 – 12:30 AM
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Pat McManamon

Pat McManamon %BloggerTitle%

LeBron JamesCLEVELAND -- Is it worth it?

That's the question that came to mind, over and over, as the Cleveland Cavaliers obliterated the New York Knicks Monday night.

Obliterated might be too kind a word, actually.

Because the Cavs eviscerated the Knicks, tore them up and down and all apart. The team that LeBron James plays for this season pretty much embarrassed the team some folks think he will play for next season.

The 124-93 final actually was misleading. How bad was it?

"They outclassed us," New York coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They outmatched us. Outplayed us."

Why did the Knicks have so much trouble guarding the Cavs, who scored 74 points in the first half and had more dunks than one of those rigged dunk-the-teacher carnival acts?

"We just can't guard them," D'Antoni said. "They're just too big, too fast."

Somewhere Red Holzman is holding his head.

The first quarter, the Cavs had five layups and four dunks. That's 18 points from shots at most a foot from the rim, or seven more points than the Knicks scored in the third quarter.

There was the time James had a breakaway -- after the Knicks had scored.

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There was the time he went for a steal, missed, fell down at halfcourt and watched a Knicks miss. He got up, sped to the basket and slammed another one down -- well ahead of the Knicks defenders.

There was the time Delonte West went right around Eddie House and dunked -- in a halfcourt set. And the time when West took a feed along the baseline from Anderson Varejao and slammed another home.

There was the time Leon Powe -- playing his third game since coming back from a torn knee ligament -- beat the Knicks down the court.

Finally, there was the time James caught a West pass in midair, floated with his back to the basket and slammed one down, double-pump reverse.

It didn't count because West had been fouled, but James said "it counts" among his best.

It was quite a show, with the Knicks playing the part of pathetic younger brother to the Cavs.

"They are just a lot better than we are," D'Antoni said.

Kind of by design. The Knicks made trade deadline moves to make a move next season. Or to not make a move, depending on what happens with the 2010 class of free agents. The Knicks have thrown away this season after throwing away last -- all in the hopes that they can pursue James and lure him to New York. Integrity of the game questions have long ago been put aside. The Knicks are just a bad team.

The thinking that James might sign with New York is based on the city's considerable star power. The lure of Broadway, Madison Square Garden, the city that never sleeps ... all that stuff. That and the dream that the Knicks can lure their own trio of James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to Gotham.

Doing so would require all to leave money on the table, though. And if James left Cleveland he'd leave a lot of money on the table, because the Cavs can offer an extra year. As well as offer him the ability to play near his hometown for a fan base that pretty much adores him.

Tracy McGrady and Antawn Jamison

James declined to talk about the offseason -- "I stopped answering free agent questions a long time ago" -- but in the past he's said winning means more to him than money.

If that's true, New York should be a faraway place in his mind. Because the Knicks have not had a winning season since 2000-01 -- though adding James obviously increases their chances.

Same with the Cavs' next opponent, New Jersey, another rumored and possible LeBron stop. Except the Nets are worse than the Knicks.

Monday the Cavs scored 66 points in the paint, and they outrebounded New York 60-31. They had 100 points before the third quarter was over.

It was like a pro team against an AAU team. But the Knicks persevere (sort of) because they might get James in the offseason, or they might not. The approach might or might not be a joke. The product on the floor, though, is a joke.

Another approach comes in Miami, where the Heat have told Wade they can't build a team around him without his commitment to a long-term contract. That has the Heat fading into the ninth spot in the East, which would be out of the playoffs.

Cleveland brought in Shaquille O'Neal in the offseason. They signed Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon and Leon Powe. At the trade deadline they acquired Antawn Jamison. And in three weeks they will re-sign Zydrunas Ilguaskas, if another team (cough, cough) doesn't outbid them.

If it's truly about winning for James, now and in the future, where does he have the best chance?

"Winning a championship," Cavs guard Mo Williams said, "definitely can beat a lot of money."

The Cavs have wiped out the memory of a three-game losing streak and are streaking at 47-14. In the fourth quarter, James was dancing on the bench to "Bird is the Word" as it blared over the loudspeaker.

And a boy in the crowd held up a sign that read: "Hey NY. Get your own King."

Is it worth it for New York? Is it worth it to lose every game since Jan. 26 to every team but Washington? To come to Cleveland and leave with Tracy McGrady saying the Cavs are "one helluva team" and "we're a team trying to find ourselves."

Is it worth it?

"I'll tell you next year, OK," D'Antoni said. "I'll tell you next year. I can't tell you right now. Right now it's pretty frustrating for everybody.

"But ... this is what we're doing."

Time will tell if they knew what they were doing.
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