BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
LeBron James made one of his two appearances in our fair city Tuesday night.
Interestingly enough, his first appearance in town this season failed to generate any buzz. It could be either the Lakers stink or the Nets just don’t generate fan interest locally.
James’ presence should be a big deal after what he accomplished in the NBA since entering the league as an 18-year-old rookie. If the Lakers played the Knicks, everyone in town would hear about his presence. Since the Lakers played in Brooklyn, no one in town cares. That’s just the honest truth about the Nets failing to capture the city’s attention despite boasting Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. That’s an indictment on the Nets right there.
It was telling the Lakers fans made Barclays Center into Crypto.com Arena on this night. They made their presence heard. It sure seemed like the Lakers crowd outdrew the Nets crowd.
James made the most of his first New York appearance as one would expect by scoring 33 points on 14-of-21 shooting in the Lakers’ 106-96 victory over the Nets. He was the reason the Lakers won.
If the Lakers turn their underachieving season around, it will be because of him only. Who knows what to make of Anthony Davis after coming off a 17-game absence with a knee injury? The Lakers can’t rely on Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony since they are not the players they used to be. There’s not much on the bench.
James has a year to go on his contract after this season. One has to wonder if he wants to move on and if this is the best it gets for him as a Laker. He already won a championship with the Lakers couple of years ago. He has nothing to prove there. Besides it’s not like any Lakers fan thinks of him as a Laker.
Does James really want to waste his final prime years on a team that is going nowhere? Does it make sense for the Lakers to waste his time? This is not a championship team as presently constituted. In fact, they are not even a playoff team.
No one could be surprised the Lakers are struggling this season because it was a bad mix from the get-go. Davis has had knee injuries, and Westbrook and Anthony were not exactly spring chickens when they got to the Lakers. It seemed like the team just pick names out of a hat and hope everything sticks. It really hasn’t. Does anyone think it will click now after 47 games? In a tough conference, it’s not going to be easy.
Even if James gets the Lakers to the playoffs, is there any satisfaction for him at his age? At 37 years old, his time is ticking. He needs to win another championship. Just being part of a mediocre team is simply not enough.
Plus, the Lakers have to wonder if they went as far as they could with him. They are nowhere close to being a championship contender. They are likely going to have to rebuild or wait until the next free agent star such as Ja Morant is ready to play for them. It would be crazy for them to keep paying James his last legs just to be mediocre and sell out the Crypto.com arena.
James should have one more challenge in him before he retires. This would be playing for the Knicks and transforming them into championship contenders. If he wins a championship with the Knicks, it would be an exclamation mark of his decorated career. In fact, anyone can make a case for him being the best player ever to play the game just for his impact on the Knicks.
It’s a challenge he should consider. He always plays his best when he goes to New York. It’s a great way for him to end his career. He would be a legend in New York and America just for making the Knicks title contenders.
The Knicks would be happy to welcome him. This is a mediocre team that has no upside. They feature their best player being a headcase in Julius Randle, who spends more time fighting with Knicks fans than working on his game. This is a team that failed to generate interest this season.
James would be to the Knicks what Pat Riley was what once.
The Lakers could be motivated to trade him, and if he wants to go to the Knicks, they could send him there. At this point, the Lakers would have motivation to trade him since they are not going anywhere and they can clear salary to start signing this next free agent star. It doesn’t matter what they get in return because it’s hard to think they are getting much for a 38-year-old player.
This should be an opportunity for the Lakers, Knicks and James to make this happen.It should be a favor to the basketball fans who want to see this happen. For what James did to LA, the Lakers owe it to him to send him there.
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