Commentary

LeBron can win in New York -- right now

What rebuilding process? State of the East says James could lead Knicks, Nets to Finals

Updated: June 22, 2010, 8:30 AM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

It's not a layup, by any means.

Still, LeBron James' path to the NBA Finals looks virtually clear.

In fact, James could come to New York -- with either the Nets or Knicks -- and make it to the Finals in his first season in the Big Apple.

That has been the argument all along on why James shouldn't come here and should instead go elsewhere, such as to the Chicago Bulls. Many so-called experts believe he would have to wait on building a team to get to the championship.

But after watching the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in seven games to win their second straight title, it's obvious that the East is wide open for any team with James and a second star -- say Chris Bosh -- to get to the finals next June.

That -- a dynamic duo -- is usually what you need to win a title in the NBA. It's time-tested.

That's why it makes no sense for James, arguably the biggest free-agent prize in the history of sports, to stay in Cleveland. If the Cavaliers had the cap room -- which they don't -- to add that other star to the mix, it would make perfect sense.

[+] EnlargeLebron James
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Celtics KO'd LeBron James this spring, but he can look past them next season.

But because they don't, James is in the driver's seat.

And not just as to what uniform he wants to wear next season but also what team will have a legitimate shot at dethroning the two-time defending champion Lakers.

Here's a look at the viable teams to represent the East in the championship next season.

Boston Celtics

It's a wrap.

Their three-year run with the Big Three ended when they blew a 13-point, second-half lead to the Lakers in the seventh and deciding game Thursday night.

Granted, the Celtics, who looked old and tired all regular season long, surprised a lot of people by getting to the championship round for the second time in three years. They won it all in 2008.

But there's just not much left here. Kevin Garnett has lost something and isn't the feared player he once was. Ray Allen, an unrestricted free agent, is either great or terrible these days. It's hard to win with a 35-year-old 2-guard who is so up-and-down.

Along with Allen, the Celtics have five other players set to test the free-agent waters.

There's also all this talk about coach Doc Rivers packing it in and spending more time with the family.

Sure, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo will still be around. But it just doesn't seem like it will be enough to knock James out of the playoffs, as Boston did this season in the second round.

Orlando Magic

The Magic's gone.

It's hard to look at this squad and be scared anymore. That was the case two years ago when Orlando shocked James and America and beat the Cavs in the conference finals.

And although you have to respect any team with Dwight Howard, you can't be convinced they have the right parts in place to stand in James' way next season.

Vince Carter, the big piece that was supposed to put the Magic over the top, came up small, and his conference performance has people wondering whether he'll ever have the impact there.

They didn't just lose to the Celtics, they were embarrassed. For sure, James, with the right partner, would feel confident he could get past the Magic this time around.

Atlanta Hawks

Simply, frauds.

Sure, there were times when you watched that squad and thought the Hawks had enough talent and all those athletes to go on a run and possibly win a title. Two years ago, they forced the Celtics to a Game 7 in the first round.

But in the conference semis this postseason, Atlanta was destroyed and swept by the Magic. It was so bad, it cost coach Mike Woodson his gig.

The Hawks' cute story is over. They offer no resistance to James in the postseason.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Move along, nothing to see here.

If James bolts, the Cavs will disband.

OK, OK. That's over the top. But let's put it this way, they won't have the best record in the NBA like they have had the past two seasons.

They will fall back into the middle of the pack in the East. James certainly will not have to worry about his old team rising up and derailing his dream of getting to his second championship -- and winning it.

Best of all, with the way things are shaking out, James can do it in New York sooner than later.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com

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