Knicks Are Fiddling While the Heat Burn

LeBron James flipped the switch this year and that's bad for the Knicks

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Is this as close as the Knicks will get to LeBron?

    The Knicks haven't played a game in almost two months and they don't pick until late in the second half of Thursday night's draft, but that isn't stopping them from generating news.

    There's been bad news, namely Amar'e Stoudemire's decision to tweet a homophobic slur to one of his followers. Amar'e has apologized -- it will still cost him a $50,000 fine from the NBA -- but it's another bit of bad news for a player who hasn't made any other kind in a long time unless you include his recent engagement that was also fodder for Stoudemire's Twitter account.

    There's been good news about Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak's future, even if it is tempered with a little uncertainty about the NBA's appeal of last week's decision to grant Early Bird Rights to both players. The Knicks probably won't know the outcome of the appeal before the start of free agency, which means they may be flying blind while the rest of the league signs up players.

    There's been news about J.R. Smith declining his option but hoping to stay with the Knicks and news about Carmelo Anthony dropping weight before unveiling a wax sculpture of himself. And every day brings more news about potential targets for free agency (say hello to Randy Foye!) now that it seems the Knicks will actually be able to spend some cash.

    All of those nuggets have generated discussion, although you could file all of these disparate topics under the same general headline. That headline reads "Things to Talk About When You're Trying to Avoid Talking About the Heat."

    It isn't Miami winning the championship that should make Knicks fans uncomfortable about what is going on in South Florida, it is the way they won the title. Specifically, it is the way LeBron James played from Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals.

    Since coming to Miami, James had been playing one of the strangest roles a basketball superstar has ever picked out for himself. There's never been a great basketball player who didn't want to be the alpha dog on his team, but there was James pretending that he was just one of the guys instead of the most talented player in the league.

    That stopped in Game Six against Boston. With his back against a wall that might have totally defined his career, James played the best game of his life and never looked back.

    The Heat beat the Celtics and then rolled past the Thunder largely because James was dominating games in a way that we haven't seen in a very long time. The Heat, so dysfunctional last season, recognized what was going on and everyone, including Dwyane Wade, got in line behind him.

    Now that James has flipped that switch, how in the world are the Knicks going to figure out a way to flip it back off? They aren't a bad team and won't be a bad team for the foreseeable future, but there's a big gap between that and being able to beat Miami (a healthy Miami, obviously) four out of seven times in a playoff series.

    Breaking through and winning the first one has long been the difficult part of the game for the best players in the NBA. Winning the second, third and so forth has always come a little bit easier and there's no reason to think it won't be that way for a player who was vilified by everyone because of his inability to grab the first ring. 

    These are not fun things to think about when you think about the Knicks. So we fill our head with offensive tweets, wax figurines and other trivialities because the alternative is far more deflating.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.