The jig is up! The motivations are made public and the methods are medieval.
Let’s review the facts. The New York Knicks have been badly mismanaged and under coached for the term of the previous coach’s tenure. The new management and coach, Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni respectively, are attempting to bring order to the chaos.
Players have been traded in an attempt to get a group of individuals that can perform within the new coach’s system. There is one exception, Stephon Marbury.
Marbury’s contract is too large to trade away—I suspect, because they would have to take a near-equal contract or contracts in return. This is like shopping at the Goodwill store±you have to take what is there, and you cannot request a particular designer label.
The other method is to buy out the contract. This means that the Knicks pay the player the amount that is due on the remainder of the contract, or maybe negotiate a lesser sum, and the two parties go their separate ways. This is the Knicks' problem.
GM Donnie Walsh has stated that he does not believe in buyouts. So he and D’Antoni have resorted to draconian measures to coerce Marbury into relenting and accepting a “short sale” on the value of his remaining contract.
The methods used to subdue Marbury were: (a) The denial of playing time to damage his future marketability, (b) The lack of any public statements adequately explaining his status which gives the impression that he is damaged goods, (c) The fine and suspension on the pretext that he refused to follow directions.
This strategy is almost at the critical point where it becomes damaging to the Knicks organization instead of Marbury. Why? The more Marbury is damaged and denied fair handling, the less likely it is that he will accept a discount on his buyout. If his future is in doubt and his value declining, it would make more sense to take the "bird in the hand" than to take a low buyout and look forward to maybe a mid-level exception with another team. As this proceeds, his ability to attract a decent contract is declining.
Anther consideration is the Knicks are giving Marbury an outstanding lawsuit. Please consult your own attorney, but I see breach of ethics, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of league policy with their fine and suspension and slander. They don’t want to give up $21 million, so they risk a much greater amount through underhanded measures.
Yet another consideration is that this team is short on players, and they need Marbury's roster spot. Who would want to play for this demented duo of Walsh and D’Antoni after this? Were I a player, NY would suddenly be on the do-not-consider list.
D’Antoni used to have my respect as a coach—but after this fiasco, I have to question just who this man is and the nature of his ethics.
From Marbury’s point of view, he is innocent. He worked out this summer with a vengeance, and was prepared to not only honor his contract, but had expectations of performing at his peak. D’Antoni knew that he was not going to use Marbury before the first game of the season.
They could have pursued a buyout during the summer, gotten a better deal than they will now, and Marbury could be playing somewhere else. The fact that they waited and pursued this policy of emotional and professional terrorism suggests that this is personal between D’Antoni and Marbury, with Walsh a willing co-conspirator.
If they truly expect to attract Mr. LeBron James in two years, they must solve this problem within the week—and do so in a fair manner toward Marbury. Anything less will not only tarnish, but taint this NY organization as long as one of the two protagonists is employed there.
If this persists, the owner will eventually come to the realization that the only way to clean the reputation of his investment will be to hire another GM, one that could command players respect and public goodwill. As this situation continues, it is the New York Knickerbockers who will lose value. The American public likes and expects fair play even if they don’t like the person being abused.
This organization would do well to take heed of the public perception they are creating, and the long-term effect it will have on this organization.