When I recently wrote my little primer on how to root in the playoffs as a Knicks’ fan, I gave short shrift to the Dallas Mavericks. That’s ‘cuz I didn’t think they’d suck this hard. I also didn’t put much stock in the idea that LeBron James could go to the Mavs. Now I’m worried that with Dallas crumbling quick, that could become a very real possibility.
As I said in that rooting manifesto, I assumed the Mavs would do well in the playoffs, which’d make it seem lame if LeBron joins a team that had already made it to like the Western Conference Finals without him. If they win it all the next year, a Joe Johnson could get credit for taking the team to the next level, but for a truly once-in-a-bball-history player like LeBron… Well, it’d seem more like jumping on the bandwagon, much like what the aged Karl Malone and Gary Payton did when they joined the Shaq-Kobe Lakers several years ago. However, if the Mavs can’t even make it out of the first round, then all bets are off.
The other key thing that made the possibility of LeBron going to Texas is the fact that they couldn’t just out-and-out sign him in free agency, but would need to swing a big sign-and-trade deal. That meant all the following would need to happen: 1. The Mavs pursue LeBron heavily, not taking no for an answer, 2. LeBron decides he wants to join them no matter what, 3. LeBron and Dallas convince Cleveland that LeBron will leave no matter what so they might as well accept it and do a sign-and-trade or they’ll end up with nothing, 4. Both teams can agree on a trade with matching salaries.
Normally for trades, you just need to worry about point #4, but here you’d need to get through three tough negotiations before you even get to that traditional starting point. I didn’t believe that LeBron and the Mavs would have such a strong desire to make this happen that they’d push on through all the way to the end. However, if the Mavs go down like punks, Mark Cuban is not gonna be a happy camper. And he is not one to sit around idly and do nothing about it.
If his team loses in the first round, he’ll feel they need something big, not just the tinkering that’s brought players like Shawn Marion, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood this year. And those are good, good players, not little pieces like say how this summer the Cavs brought in Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and Leon Powe. So Cuban’s gonna be convinced that it ain’t enough to just bring in All-Star (or near All-Star) players is enough. To get to the promised land, this team’s gonna need something huge.
And with the way the Mavs are playing, Cuban’s gonna have no choice but to go after the King with guns blazin’. Which is a scary thought to those Knicks’ fans still hoping to steal LBJ away for ourselves.