Is Isiah Thomas Toast?

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[Black Star Sports]


Given the Knicks recent improved play including a three game winning streak, the vocal “fire Isiah” chants have subsided from the Madison Square Garden crowd.

Yet, given the team’s dismal 14-29 record at the NBA season’s halfway point and their last place standing in a fragile Atlantic Division the question is can Isiah’s survive this season if the Knicks miss the playoffs?

The Hall-of Fame point guard has been under unrelenting criticism since his firing of Larry Brown, as well as the fallout culminating from Madison Square Garden’s loss in Anucha Brown-Sanders sexual harassment lawsuit.  The October 2, 2007 finding against Isiah and The Garden poisoned the atmosphere around the team and created yet another hurdle for the embattled Knicks to clear.

Browne-Sanders had filed the lawsuit only days after being fired in January 2006. She claimed Isiah sexually harassed her repeatedly, since he was hired in December of 2003, and that she was fired for her complaints. In August, 2007 she included the Knicks and owner James Dolan in her suit. Although, her suit appeared weak, on the face of it, her case was assisted by the testimony of a Stephon Marbury and James Dolan.

Dolan who has faithfully stood by Isiah—amid the calls that his head be served up—came off in testimony as being aloof, and with his body language seemed to make light of the severity of the situation. However, Marbury’s testimony proved to be the real disaster. Marbury was forced to recount his trysts with former intern Kathleen Decker, which should have been deemed irrelevant testimony by the judge.

Marbury seemed oblivious to how negative his statements came off as a married Black man having sex with a white intern, especially, to an all-white jury. He then compounded the problem by smiling outside for the cameras, while handing out high-fives.

His testimony gave legs to the feeble case of Browne-Sanders, rendering her accusations more believable. Through him The Garden may well have seemed like the Plato’s Retreat of sports, where sexual debauchery is condoned.

After losing the case The Garden vowed to appeal, but on December 10, 2007 they settled for a reported $11. 5 million. But Isiah’s troubles really started with the other Brown: Larry Brown. Brown was given his walking papers after the Knicks won a mere 21 games at the end of the 2006 season. Brown blamed the Knicks misfortunes on the players, especially, Stephon Marbury. Some say the team quit on him, others insist he quit on they team.

However, what’s clear is that Brown and Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury weren’t coexisting. The fratricide boiled over into a war of words between the two which lead to the departure of Brown. Ironically, a major part of the Knicks current troubles revolve around the deteriorating relationship between Marbury and Isiah.

After back-to-back home losses, especially a horrendous 72-75 outing against Miami on Nov. 11, Isiah—some say with a nudge by Dolan—decided to shake-up his line-up by relegating Marbury to a diminished role. During a press conference, Isiah stated that he needed “leadership.” After a much reported blow-up between the two, Marbury flew back to New York, on the same night that his team lost a hard fought 102-113 game to the Phoenix Suns.

Marbury claimed he was given permission to fly home. If this is so why was he fined? By this selfish act he helped to perpetuate the circus-like atmosphere that has hounded this team all season. Moreover, what does it say of a player who leaves his team in this manner?

Isiah probably should shoulder some of the blame here. For, if it is true that the team took a vote to suspend Marbury, why did he play him the next night against the Clippers? By playing him against the wishes of the team it’s possible that Isiah may have alienated some on the team? Aren’t these the kinds of things that disrupt team unity and chemistry? 
Marbury has not played for a couple of weeks, and completed successful surgery last week to repair bone spurs in his left ankle.

It maybe coincidental, but since Marbury has been out the Knicks have played much better with home wins against the Detroit Washington and Philadelphia, before along with road wins against the New Jersey and Miami. During this stretch the “Seattle Connection” of Nate Robinson and Jamal Crawford has been fantastic. Both seem to be emerging as the real leaders in the team. The energetic Renaldo Balkman has also re-emerged and Quentin Richardson has showed signs offensively.

But, though the Knicks are playing better, there are other problems with this team like: Eddy Curry. Last year, Curry was as Walt “Clyde” Frazier likes to say “on the threshold of greatness.”

But Curry has taken a large step backward, with his anemic play that belies his 6-11, 285-pound frame. Some argue the draft day signing of power forward Zack Randolph, from Portland, has eroded Curry’s confidence. Randolph is a formidable high and low-post presence. Curry’s play has been lackluster and lethargic.

The interior defense of the Knicks has got to improve fast if they still expect to make the playoffs. The Knicks are last in the NBA in block shots. Curry is weak rebounder and poor defender, and this year his offense has sputtered.
Curry’s talent isn’t in question.  But his talent has not been complemented by desire or a strong work ethic.

I have said before that Curry is the determining factor in how far this team goes. If he continues to be ineffective the Knicks have no chance of making the playoffs, and Isiah has no chance of keeping his job.

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