The Knicks are bad. They are 12-26 this year, and 101-183 since the start of the 2004-05 season. That was the first full season that Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas was in charge of the team, having been hired in December, 2003.
When Larry Bird returned to Indiana as the President of Basketball Operations after the 2002-2003 season, his first action was to fire Isiah Thomas. Thomas was widely criticized for his inability to advance past the first round of the playoffs, despite a strong core of promising young talents like Ron Artest, Al Harrington, Jamaal Tinsley, and Brad Miller.
For some reason, Knicks owner James Dolan found it wise to quickly take on Thomas and give him control of the most valuable basketball franchise in America.
NFL coaching great Bill Parcells vows to only draft players with “passion” and who play for the love of the game, a standard Isiah Thomas seemingly doesn’t strive for. Isiah’s moves have appeared more impulsive than calculated.
He ensured the Knicks wouldn’t win a championship anytime soon when he brought perennial loser Stephon Marbury back to Gotham, and then traded away the team’s foreseeable future by bringing in overweight and under-effort big man Eddy Curry.
I was at the Garden the other night to watch the middle of the team’s current season-best, three game win streak vs. the Wizards. It was the first game I had seen live all season and I was excited to see just how bad the Knicks were, and was thrilled to join the nightly “Fire Isiah” chant.
The Knicks controlled the game throughout and beat a clearly exhausted Washington team who had just come off a weekend of beating Boston twice. The "Fire Isiah" chants never came, with the crowd's energy more directed to cheering for Giants Brandon Jacobs, R.W. McQuarters and James Butler, who all were sitting courtside.
Starbury sat on the bench with a boot on his foot and was booed the only time he was shown on the big screen. Eddy Curry appeared to struggle getting up and down the court, and often seemed to be a liability both on defense and on the boards.
He played just 25 minutes, managing only seven shots and three rebounds. David Lee, one of the few players on the Knicks roster who the Big Tuna would probably approve of, in 24 minutes managed seven rebounds and appears to give far more effort than Curry.
I watched a kid stand by the Knicks' tunnel at halftime trying to get autographs from players as they returned to the court. First out were Nate Robinson, David Lee, and Renaldo Balkman, who all politely agreed to sign the autograph.
Eddy Curry then appeared from the tunnel and marched his way towards the court. I watched with excitement, hoping Eddy would exacerbate my already low opinion of him and blow the kid off. The 6'11" big man didn’t flinch as he ignored the kid and walked right on by.
With the stars of last season’s team, Curry and Marbury, on the bench, the Knicks young guys–and Zach Randolph, who gives similar effort to Curry but has far more talent–outplayed a worn-out Wizards squad.
New York definitely has some skilled players with youngsters Robinson, Lee, and Balkman nicely complimenting one of the best pure scorers in the east, Jamal Crawford. He scored 29 points on the night, on 11-19 shooting, while Robinson and Balkman both contributed greatly off the bench. Nate had 14 points and 8 dimes, while Balkman added 9 rebounds to go with some nice fast-break finishes.
Knicks fans should enjoy this winning streak, because there won’t be many like it. The poison that is keeping NY at the pits of the league is at its core. Thomas put together a terrible mixture of talent, with some guys who simply don’t seem to play with a genuine love of the game.
If New York wants to ascend to the top, like Boston was quickly able to do this season, James Dolan must remove the reason for the team’s fall from grace.
He must fire Isiah.