By: Rob Botts
The Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks. The city of Angels and the city that never sleeps. Hollywood and the Big Apple. Rodeo Drive and Wall Street. Movies and theater. 2 very, very, very large markets with 2 very, very, very well known sports franchises that have spanned the years of our NBA sports consciousness. Apparently those descriptions mean, to quote the great Mel Brooks, “bupkis” to any free agents this off season.
People love nostalgia. When I recently saw “Jurassic World” and “Terminator: Genisys” in the theaters, it brought back great memories of what it felt like to see such iconic characters and themes back when they were first introduced to us. Whether it was seeing the new, old Arnold square off against the computer generated, young, 1984 Arnold or hearing that familiar John Williams “Jurassic Park” theme music soaring over our seats in the theater like a flock of pterodactyls, we remember. And we love it.
Unfortunately the Lakers and Knicks need to do more than just remind the latest free agent guest that Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee call their respective cities home. That just doesn’t work on these kids who most likely never saw “The Shining” or “Do the Right Thing.” Having Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul Jabbar or even Kobe Bryant talk about the pride of wearing the purple and gold just sounds like a couple of old dudes who used to play talking about 2 colors of the rainbow. Walt Frazier, Patrick Ewing, Bernard King or even Marv Albert, are just a bunch of names that sound vaguely familiar to the current free agents and will have nothing to do with whether their names end up on the dotted line.
The chatter about free agents wanting to go a “big market” is dead. You gotta get a better reason or start to name reasons that the current crop of NBA free agents care about. What do they care about? Well, most of them just care about who is actually playing on the team currently. Not who won titles for them 20 years ago. They care about who the coach is and if they will be a central piece in what is being done. Players are about playing with players that they like now more than ever in the history of the league. Athletic matchmaking if you will. Tradition has nothing to do with it.
You really have to sell these players on what you have on the court. With Social Media outlets, dudes today can design and grow their “brands” no matter where they are in the country playing ball. They can do it from Milwaukee, Minnesota, Cleveland or Sacramento. Being online anywhere at anytime has destroyed any kind of big market, home field advantage in terms of “why” free agents should come to their respective digs. And on the court is definitely not slide number one of the power point presentation to these guys. I really hope these two organizations are not employing power point action still but the way these two cities have touted history, they might very well be faxing driving directions to these guys before they show up.
What do the Lakers and Knicks have on the court? Los Angeles has a very young squad. A very unproven, non contender team led by a coach in Byron Scott who can wear on you and an ownership team made up of family members whose drama could rival anything currently being aired on the BRAVO channel. New York has a bunch of dudes that are relatively young, matched with an unproven coach in Derek Fisher and a completely overpaid and overwhelmed rookie GM in Phil Jackson. They also showcase a star player in Carmelo Anthony who, according to women’s tennis star CoCo Vandeweghe, is “soft.” Anthony has been somewhat injury prone as well and sees only one side of the triangle. His.
That’s it. The polite meetings being granted to the Lakers and Knicks are over. As said free agents begin heading for their respective exits, they are intercepted by interns holding mind changing gifts. “Anybody for a framed and signed New York Knicks Bill Bradley jersey? He was a Rhodes scholar and a three term Democratic Senator you know. Wait! How about a secretly recorded argument between Shaq and Kobe back when they REALLY hated each other??? Come on guys! Stop! This stuff is gold!!”
It’s not gold and you can stop digging now.