John Calipari Returning to the NBA Would Hurt the Knicks

Kentucky coach is linked to the Bulls

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, May 5, 2010  |  Updated 10:46 AM EDT
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John Calipari Returning to the NBA Would Hurt the Knicks

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The Knicks got Mike D'Antoni two years ago because the Bulls weren't willing to meet his salary demands for their head coaching vacancy.

Now it looks like an opening in Chicago will impact the franchise again this summer.

Vinny Del Negro's keycard wasn't even deactivated before the rumors of John Calipari's interest in the Bulls coaching job started to pop up. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports wrote that Calipari was intrigued by the thought of reuniting with his former Memphis charge Derrick Rose in Chicago. Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com then reported that multiple sources have told him that Calipari has long dreamed of coaching LeBron James who, as you're surely aware, is a free agent this summer.

That last point, in and of itself, isn't particularly notable. Plenty of coaches would like to coach the King. What is notable is that both Calipari and James are very close to William Wesley, a.k.a. "Worldwide Wes" a.k.a. one of the biggest behind the scenes power brokers in the NBA. What's more, Calipari is repped by CAA, the same agency that represents other free agents in waiting Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

Again, this might not matter if not for the fact that the Bulls feature a strong core with Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng and have the space to add a max player in free agency. Such a quartet would immediately shift the balance of power in the Eastern Conference and, needless to say, the Knicks would remain on the wrong side of the scale.

But why would LeBron leave Cleveland to play in Michael Jordan's shadow? Fair question, but we'll ask one right back: If the Cavs can't get past the rickety Celtics, why would he agree to keep playing for a team put together by Danny Ferry and coached by Mike Brown? It doesn't seem impossible that the Cavs would be in the market for a new coach if they don't win a title and Calipari, who is already friendly with LeBron, would be a real contender for that job as well. Shaq's contract gives them some cap space to play with and, obviously, playing with James offers oodles of rewards.

Kentucky officials say they are working on a restructured, i.e. more lucrative, contract with Calipari and Cal also issued a non-denial denial about the rumors. He did the same thing last year when Kentucky lured him away from Memphis, though, so it's probably wise to let things play out before assuming he won't be rushing back to the NBA.

The same is true for the impact, if any, this winds up having on the Knicks and their summer of gorge. What we do know, though, is that the Knicks should fear any move that changes the landscape away from them having the most attractive mix of coach and situation to a free agent hellbent on making a move this summer. Calipari would be just such a game changer, even if he's shackled by the fact that every team at the professional level pays for its players. 

And, if all that's not enough, did you happen to catch Atlanta's "performance" against Atlanta? All those still hoping Joe Johnson comes to New York, form a line to the left. Don't worry if you can't make it for a while, there doesn't actually figure to be anyone in the queue.  

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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