Almost a year after the dismissal of the former head coach and President of Basketball Operations, the New York Knicks franchise hasn't been able to escape the depths of apathy Thomas helped the team reach during his tenure (which amazingly hasn't officially ended yet).
Last night, the Knicks honored a number of the greatest players ever to don the once storied orange and blue, providing fans a momentary escape from the mundane the current group of underachievers has subjected them to once again.
(Not surprisingly, the team lost after blowing a late lead.)
With the Orlando Magic in town, Madison Square Garden once again had its nose rubbed in the fact that franchise great Patrick Ewing continues to be treated like royalty by the Knicks fan base.
Yet Ewing is treated with an equal level of disrespect by management, who inexcusably never seriously considered him for a coaching position.
You may have heard Magic coach Stan Van Gundy criticize the Knicks for "pretending to care" about Patrick. Van Gundy (brother of Jeff, a big supporter of Pat when he coached in New York) added fuel to the fire of how pathetic the Knicks franchise continues to be both on and off the court.
The fact that Ewing isn't sitting on the Knicks bench helping develop a kid like Eddy Curry is a shame. Although, many Knicks' fans would likely agree there isn't a person, place or thing that is capable of motivating Curry to fulfill the potential he showed two seasons ago.
While the team has missed out on a wonderful opportunity to connect it's successful past with its woefully unsuccessful present, the future can't come soon enough.
At 28-42, the team has eliminated itself from the playoff race with the help of unwatchable losses—at home to New Jersey (playing without their best play Devin Harris) and Sacramento (who had yet to win a game versus an Eastern Conference team in their first 28 tries).
Fans can no longer point their fingers at Thomas, who has been reduced to scouting, and must face the reality that things may still get worse before they get better.
With another season standing in the way of the summer of 2010, it gives the Knicks more time to make themselves that much less of a desirable destination for the top talent that will be available to them following the end of next season.
Making matters worse. The Knicks can't get out of their own way, while their savior, LeBron James, continues to win out in Cleveland and appears to be leading a team that not only is favored to win it's conference, but perhaps finally win its first title
While there was considerable progress made after the hiring of Donnie Walsh to run the team and Mike D'Antoni to coach it, the team finds itself having won only five more times than it did last season with just twelve more to play.
Walsh was able to improve the catastrophic cap situation by shedding the contracts of Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph early in the season in exchange for Al Harrington, Tim Thomas, and Cuttino Mobley (who has since retired due to a heart condition) and seemingly improved the roster with the additions of Larry Hughes and Chris Wilcox
Dealing Thomas, Jerome James, Malik Rose, and Anthony Roberson aided in the latter.
Perhaps the most embarrassing storyline of all was the inability to rid themselves of Stephon Marbury who never saw the floor this season in a Knicks uniform.
The disgruntled guard was eventually asked to stay away from the team following a pair of disagreements with D'Antoni about whether or not he was actually asked to play when the team was shorthanded.
It wasn't until the end of February that Marbury was finally given his release.
The face lift of the roster has been a marginal success on the court.
These moves by Walsh are no secret, as they were made primarily to clear cap space for the summer of 2010 when the Knicks hope to have enough of it to bring in at least one and potential two superstars the Knicks from further disgrace.
It's awfully disappointing to see this once proud franchise constantly trip over it's own proverbial feet as it looks to end what has been a decade of disaster.
The hope was that after last season, with Isiah Thomas on his way out (sort of) and the new regime coming in, the team would be (at the very least) be headed in the right direction in its effort to restore the image of greatest it once had.
While there have certainly been bright spots, namely the team's increased amount of heart and a no-quit attitude, (inspired by Nate Robinson, David Lee, and Wilson Chandler) along with the glimpses of ability shown by injured rookie Danillo Gallinari, the end result seems to be more of the same.
When all is said and done this season, while the names on the roster may not be the same as they were at the end of the last season, the disappointing results are the same.
While the record may indicate the team won more than it did last season, Knicks' fans are going to see their season end without a winning record for an eight straight season.
The team also failed to give fans what they want: more LeBron James into the Garden. Had the Knicks managed to take the No. 8 spot in the playoffs, James and the Cavs would have come to MSG two more times.
Chew on this for a second, Knicks fans: playoff games at Madison Square Garden with LeBron James and the Knicks sharing the same floor, albeit LeBron wouldn't be wearing orange and blue.
How much fun would that have been?
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