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New York rolls out the red carpet, but LeBron knows this Knick act

NEW YORK -- Like a home seller trying desperately to peddle a fixer-upper, the Knicks emptied all the paint cans and window cleaner they could find on the property that is New York Friday night to sell the idea of playing in Gotham to the most wanted homebuyer in the NBA, LeBron James.

There were the Yankees - or, at least, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Joba Chamberlain and Melky Cabrera -- fresh off a World Series victory parade and treated to a standing ovation at center court.

There were the celebrities - from Chris Rock to Jay-Z to John Legend, whose presence prompted James to admit he felt as if he was "performing" for the stars at the Garden.

And there were the former Knicks favorites -- Larry Johnson, Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason -- evoking a time when New York basketball meant something more than Isiah Thomas or salary-cap space.

Yet for all the trappings, the Knicks couldn't hide the fact that they are still, well, the Knicks: a team that surrendered 40 points in the first quarter, a team that grabbed 15 fewer rebounds than the Cavs and a team whose idea of playing defense was to watch a Cleveland team still struggling to get comfortable passing the ball inside, outside and inside again until it found either an open man or a Knicks defender fouled someone on its way to the hoop.

Though Knicks fans tried to hide the almost non-existent foundation that is this Knicks team with a hearty round of applause for James as he left the court after pacing Cleveland's 100-91 (RECAP | BOX) win with 33 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds, it was clear that if James is looking to contend for a title beyond this year, it won't be in New York soon.

The potential drop of the salary cap to $50 million likely takes New York out of the market for two maximum-salary superstars. That would mean LeBron and someone out of the top tier of likely free agents. That means no Dwyane Wade, no Chris Bosh, no Amar'e Stoudemire. That means making do with the likes of Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari as running mates for LeBron. (Yes, the Knicks could also buy a Marcus Camby or Carlos Boozer, but the lower cap still lessens the impact of LeBron's new partner.) Serviceable players Chandler and Gallinari may be, but title contenders don't have lots of room for wing players who shoot 36.8 percent like Chandler has this season. That leaves Gallinari, who has impressed this season with four made three-pointers per game.

That isn't much of a support structure for a player who needs to measure his teams against multi-weaponized squads in Boston, Orlando, San Antonio and Los Angeles.

LeBron sat "humbl[ed] to know that you have guys like the Yankees come out and Jay-Z, he told a throng of reporters after the game. But he also said money, particularly a maximum contract, would not play as big a role in his free-agent decision as having the chance to win would.

If that's truly the case, the Knicks didn't give him many reasons Friday night to believe he could do that in New York.

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