By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
Ever since the NBA’s All-Star break, we have heard the constant rumors of potential superstar free agents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant potentially teaming up in a big market, more specifically in Los Angeles or in New York.
We all know that those two cities have two historical, high profile franchises that represent those markets, the Lakers and the Knicks, but while the Knicks and Lakers may be most appealing to stars like Irving and Durant who likely want to maintain a level of stardom along with being competitively relevant, two smaller franchises exist in those media capitals that can each make a case for consideration.
In both the Nets and the Clippers, KD and Uncle Drew can not only be the stars they want to be on and off the court, they’ll also have clean slates to work with and platforms to creating new historic feats.
When joining historical franchises such as the Lakers or the Knicks, you are joining organizations with specific and heightened levels of expectation not only within their offices and locker rooms but represented by the media coverage surrounding them and the fan devotion that follows them.
The Lakers have 10 championships and a history littered with Hall of Famers that created legendary moments to get to those championships — from the big sky hook of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the mini hook of current Lakers President of Basketball Operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson to the three-peating of the Kobe Bryant/Shaquille O’Neal era and the later back-to-back that established Bryant as the Lakers’ most beloved since Showtime.
Regarding the Knicks, there aren’t nearly as championships to claim but the “maybe next year” devotion of the Knicks fans is strong and playing in pro basketball’s “Mecca,” Madison Square Garden, draws a certain amount of attention to most of their home games, if for no other reason than to see how big stars like Jordan, Kobe and LeBron perform there.
Nearly 50 years have passed now since the Knicks two NBA championships (1970, 1973) but they still live in lore mostly due to New York being an media epicenter but the franchise has its fair share of Hall of Famers and iconic moments as well, from the hobbled Willis Reed leading the surge for the Knicks to capture their title to the infamous rivalries between the Bulls and Pacers in the 90’s and the scrappy ’99 team that is still the only No. 8 seed to make an NBA Finals.
The Lakers and Knicks are ideal franchises to consider, but their crosstown rivals have a lot to offer as well and can still fulfill those two potential desires of being in a big city market.
The Clippers have shown promise in rebuilding since the destruction of Lob City. They have been competitive all season long, and have put themselves in a position for potential long-term success with the young core of rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, third-year post bruiser Montrezz Harrell and the veteran leadership and scoring pop of Lou Williams tagged with the coaching of championship coach Doc Rivers.
They also have draft picks that they acquired in the Tobias Harris trade via the trade deadline that can be potential lottery-protected, valuable assets that can influence an Anthony Davis trade this ofseason, leading to a potential young Big 3 that can make noise long-term if either KD or Uncle Drew (or both) choose the Clippers.
A renewed stability also boosts the Clips’ front office with the connection of Jerry West — as respected an elder as there is in the NBA and one of the main contributors to getting Durant to Golden State — as a main adviser, plus the respected basketball minds of Doc Rivers and Lawrence Frank all answering to former CEO of Microsoft, businessman and current team owner Steve Ballmer, a huge upgrade from the disastrous reign of Donald Sterling.
In the borough of Biggie, the Brooklyn Nets have built a promising young core around potential Sixth man of the year Spencer Dinwiddle, second-year player Jarrett Allen, rising star Caris LeVert and new all-star D’Angelo Russell. Behind the coaching of Kenny Atkinson, the team is currently sitting sixth in the Eastern Conference and look to be on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since 2015. The Nets front office looks solid and in a short time since its 2012 opening the Barclays Center has become a big time venue and is now the indefinite host of the NBA draft.
History is on the side of Brooklyn as well including multiple playoff appearances spanning the franchise’s time in New Jersey onto its early days in Brooklyn. Two ABA championships that were led by Hall of Famer Julius “Dr. J” Erving and even an NBA Finals appearance in 2003 led by soon to be hall of fame inductee Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson.
Its not impossible to win in Brooklyn and it would seem that the franchise is only one superstar away from a new highly competitive era.
Durant and Irving have multiple businesses and being in a big market like New York or LA can enhance their business opportunities, but from a basketball standpoint, bringing either crosstown team their first championship instead of adding more titles to the major powerhouses would enhance the already-cemented basketball legacies of this duo much in the way that LeBron James did by bringing Cleveland its first championship and in a way that the Lakers and Knicks may not ever reach, which is something LeBron may have to come to grips with if his rocky first season as a Laker is any indication.
The Nets and Clippers have promising futures with cap space for superstar max-level players in a big free agency pool in 2019. It would be naive for other free agents, and most specifically Uncle Drew and KD if they choose to play together, to not consider creating history on a level not many NBA greats have been able to accomplish.
Joshua M. Hicks is the lead columnist of WARR