With Starbury Out of the Picture, Better Days Ahead for the New York Knicks

Patrick Cwiklinski@@patcwiklinskiCorrespondent IMay 1, 2009

NEW YORK - JANUARY 02:  Stephon Marbury #3 of the New York Knicks on the bench against the Sacramento Kings on January 2, 2008 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

If the truth be told, the New York Knicks were already a team in decline prior to the arrival of Stephon Marbury on January 5, 2004, but little did they know just how much worse their woes would get with the Coney Island-native in their line-up.

From 1987 to 2001, the Knicks consistently made the playoffs on an annual basis and it wasn't until 11-time NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing left New York via a trade to the Seattle SuperSonics in 2000 that things started to go downhill.

Marbury came to New York halfway through the 2003-04 season after being traded from the Phoenix Suns and helped the Knicks reach the playoffs for the first time since Ewing's departure.

Despite the disappointment of being swept by the New Jersey Nets in the first round of the playoffs, Marbury proved to be a valuable asset and made his first appearance for Team U.S.A. at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, winning a bronze medal and scoring a U.S. record 31-points during a game against Spain.

In his first full season with the Knicks in 2004-05, Marbury looked to be heading in the right direction as the team's franchise player, enjoying a career year in field-goal percentage with .462 and free-throw percentage with .834.

However, that would be about all he enjoyed during his time in New York.

The Knicks missed the playoffs again in 2005 and the losing trend would continue as Marbury's attitude worsened. In the 2005-06 season, Marbury was involved in a highly publicized feud with then-Knicks head coach Larry Brown that would end with Brown's dismissal from the organization.

On June 22, 2006, Knicks owner James Dolan replaced Brown with New York's President of Basketball Operation, Isiah Thomas, under the condition that he show "evident progress" or be fired.

Marbury made sure of the latter.

The Knicks 2006-07 season under Thomas showed some improvement over the year before but the growth would be short-lived.

At the start of 2007-08 season, Marbury was again in the middle of a feud with another Knicks head coach in Thomas. After a season of rumours of the two coming to blows on a plane and blackmail threats, Knicks fans became fed-up with the direction the team was going in and while Marbury stayed put for another season, Thomas was fired.

Thomas' replacement was 2004-05 NBA Coach of the Year, Mike D'Antoni and with him, the Knicks signed Chris Duhon, who would ultimately take Marbury's position as starting point guard. 

Marbury was placed on the Knicks inactive list and according to D'Antoni it was a move made to avoid embarrassing the 32-year-old with limited playing time.

D'Antoni apparently told Marbury that he could play 35-minutes a game if he wanted to but Marbury refused and on December 1, 2008 he was banned from attending Knicks practices and games and was instructed to stay home.

On February 24, 2009, Marbury and the Knicks agreed to a buy-out after much speculation and upon clearing waivers two days later and becoming a free agent, Marbury signed with the Boston Celtics.

But is it Marbury that gets the last laugh after all?

With the Knicks missing the post-season for a fifth straight season, Marbury has a shot at making it to the second round with the Celtics tomorrow night and though his play has been limited, an NBA Championship for Marbury would be the ultimate "in your face" to the Knicks.

But Knicks fans already know not to despair because anyone who follows basketball in New York will tell you that Marbury's release is the best thing to happen to the team in a long time.

Now, the Knicks have a chance to build a strong team around players like Nate Robinson and Wilson Chandler and with ta Marbury-free atmosphere it will give the team some room to breathe and shift their focus back to basketball as oppose to another season-long soap opera starring No. 3.

So while things may not look so promising right now trust me when I say, Knicks fans get ready for better things to come.


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