Former Knick and current Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith was even more direct when told about and shown a photo of the billboard on Sunday, not mincing words when asked if he believes there’s any chance LeBron winds up with the Knicks as a free agent this summer.
“Nah, don’t think so. Can’t see it (happening),” Smith told the Daily News with a laugh after the Cavs worked out at Basketball City at Pier 36 on South Street. “But that’s cool, though, man. A lot of cities have tried that already with (a billboard). But we’ll see what happens.”
James and the Cavs will be back at the Garden on Monday night to face the Knicks, and while the four-time NBA MVP declined to speak to the New York media after practice on Sunday, he told Cleveland.com that right now “he’s too much of a guy that’s stuck in the moment” to concern himself with his contract status.
“My family. That’s all that matters,” James said. “I want to continue to win at the highest level, because I know I can still do it as an individual, and then my family. My family is what’s most important to me, more than anything.
“Once we get to it, my agent and my team, we will all tackle it the right way, but my family plays a big part in it. And winning.”
The Manhattan billboard — located on 7th Ave. between 31st and 32nd Streets, facing the main entrance to MSG — depicts LeBron’s last name across a Knicks No. 23 jersey, along with the hashtag #KINGJAMESNYC18.
“King of New York? Prove it,” the billboard reads, a play on James’ Instagram post from earlier this season proclaiming himself as such following a comeback win over the Knicks in November.
Fans in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Portland — as well as in James’ home state of Ohio — also already have commissioned billboards this season in anticipation of LeBron becoming a free agent on July 1. The Heat, which he won back-to-back titles with, and the Rockets are other teams that have been linked as possible destinations.
In the meantime, the Cavs have gone 18-9 since dealing Wade, Isaiah Thomas and others and adding George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. at the Feb. 9 trade deadline. At 49-31, they currently are the No. 4 team in the East (behind Toronto, Boston and Philadelphia), although the second-seeded Celtics have lost former Cleveland All-Star Kyrie Irving for the season following knee surgery.
“The new guys are getting acclimated, and for the most part, we’ve been playing much better,” Smith said. “No matter who is hurt or who isn’t, I feel like we’re always going to be the favorite in the East. It’s just a matter of whatever team comes out of that West, that’s the only thing we’re really worried about. The Eastern Conference is not really a — I’m not gonna say challenge — but that’s not what our goals. Our goal is the Finals.”
The Knicks started the season surprisingly well and still were 17-14 on Dec. 21, before injuries to Tim Hardaway Jr. and then All-Star big man Kristaps Porzingis led to an 11-38 freefall thereafter.
With little cap space without unloading bad contracts — and with Porzingis (torn ACL) expected to be sidelined until middle of next season — it certainly doesn’t sound like an enticing landing spot for James, despite his pronounced love for playing at the Garden throughout his career.
“That’s a tough situation to be in when your best player gets hurt,” Smith, who was traded by since-fired team president Phil Jackson in 2015, said of the Knicks. “They started off strong, but then Tim was in and out, and then losing Porzingis, it’s hard to compete in this league with injuries to your key guys.”
Hill (ankle) and ex-Knicks point guard Jose Calderon (hamstring) are questionable for Monday’s game, while Hood (sore Achilles) has been listed as probable.
On – 08 Apr, 2018 By Peter Botte