Last season, 2005-2006, the New York Knicks were the laughing stock of the National Basketball Association, and of sports in general. During the off-season prior to that, many people thought that the Knicks were a sure playoff team after Isaiah Thomas, the Knicks’ general manager, hired Larry Brown, the supposed best coach in basketball when it comes to turning around a team. However, the Knicks finished with an abysmal record and were the 2nd worst team in basketball, while maintaining the highest payroll in the NBA. What they did what would be considered the equivalent of the Yankees not making the playoffs in the baseball. They just paid too much money, for too much talent, for it not to have materialized into winning basketball games.
The Knicks were horrible last season. God awful horrible. They could not score on a consistent basis because they could not shoot the ball. Their best player, Stephon Marbury took his feud with Larry Brown onto the court, so in his attempt to prove Brown wrong, he played within the system and had his worst season ever. Steve Francis, who the Knicks brought in to muster up some offense, did not fit in at all, and was of no help to the scoring troubles of the team. Eddie Curry was as up and down a player as there has ever been despite the fact that his overweight behind could not get up and down the court to save his life. His defense was perforated. His effort was questionable. And he clearly was not the player the Knicks signed up for. The most consistent players on the Knicks last year were the trio of rookies. And Larry Brown hardly ever played them.
This year the Knicks are looking to rebound, both literally and figuratively. After last year’s atrocious season, team owner, James Dolan, decided to fire Larry Brown for his repulsive coaching job and put the job in the hands of the man who created the mess, Isaiah Thomas. Isaiah drafted the players on the team. He signed the players on the team. And Isaiah traded for the players on the team. This New York Knicks team is Isaiah Thomas’ squad and it is his creation. And if anybody should be responsible for the mess that has been produced, it should be the producer. So now the owner has left the team’s future in the hands of Isaiah Thomas, but not with out some added pressure. In an interview with a journalist, and with Isaiah participating in the interview right alongside of him, team owner, James Dolan let it be known that if the Knicks do not undergo significant improvement while Isaiah is at the helm, then Isaiah will be fired from the Knicks organization.
Ultimately, a firing from the only team in which Isaiah has had significant control would mean the end of the Isaiah Thomas’ role in basketball. Because I would find it hard to believe that anyone would ever hire Isaiah to come and blow up their team the way he has destroyed the New York Knicks.
However, with all of the horrible moves Isaiah has made for the Knicks salary-wise, he has brought talent to the Big Apple. Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis are the most talent New York city has seen since Patrick Ewing and John Starks. And the three rookies he drafted last year have proven to be solid players that will have long NBA careers. Jamal Crawford, Jalen Rose and Quentin Richardson are all good players, and the acquisition of Jarred Geoffries was Isaiah’s best move in a long time. So the pieces are there for the Knicks to win. The question is, can Isaiah and company make it happen? With the ultimatum placed on Isaiah’s career and future in basketball, there is a since of desperation for him and for his players. The players know that if they do not live up to their billing that they will see significant pay cuts on their next contracts- if there are any next contracts for players who don’t perform.
So the next question is, will desperation make the Knicks succeed? The answer is a resounding yes. With their backs to the wall, the Knicks and Isaiah Thomas will perform. They have to. And you know what? There will not be any other team they face who has more to play for than them. They will perform to the best of their abilities and play every play like it’s their last, because for some, it could be. And for Isaiah Thomas, it could be his last coaching/managing job in the NBA. And if he doesn’t want that to be the case, then he is going to have to get his players to get on board the “Saving Isaiah” convoy. Otherwise, instead of reading a “Saving Isaiah” article in April, you’ll be renting Losing Isaiah, Part 2 – The Isaiah Thomas Story from the video store.