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Analysis: Knicks Win Despite Losing Lebron

ESPN New York’s Johnette Howard says the Knicks will profit from the LeBronathon even though they did not land the mega-star.

As alternately overdone, brilliant, irritating and completely understandable as James’ unprecedented approach to free agency was, James did the Knicks a huge favor by encouraging them to woo him, and then teasing them along to the bitter end before he revealed Thursday night he was joining Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Pat Riley in Miami.

The Knicks were a franchise going nowhere for nearly a decade before James decided to become a free agent this summer.

Without James out there as the carrot they were chasing, the Knicks would’ve never had the organizational courage necessary to do the gut-job on their roster that they undertook. Team president Donnie Walsh never would’ve come in from Indiana and changed the way the Knicks do business as drastically as he did — which means the Knicks may have never gotten out of the salary-cap hell they’d been paralyzed in forever. Which means they wouldn’t have even been in play for two max-contract superstars like James, Wade or forward Amare Stoudemire, the five-time All-Star the Knicks did sign and introduce at a noon news conference at the Garden on Thursday.

“Yes, it was worth it,” Walsh said.

Even if you hated all that flirting and dropping of hints James did along the way, at least his availability kept the Knicks committed to their plan too. Under Walsh, there’s been no more throwing huge money at quick fixes, bad contracts or washed-up big names just because Knicks owner James Dolan figures, hey, it’s only money.

Without James to chase, the Knicks would have never swallowed all the losing that had to be accepted to rebuild the franchise the right way, either.

Howard is probably right. The Knicks have money and flexibility now. The question is, what do they do with it?