Thursday, December 20, 2007

"They Were the Champions (of the Eastern Conference), My Friends"

And, the Knicks beat them down last night, 108-90

I am ashamed to admit that I watched the Knicks thoroughly outplay the Cavs with only faint amusement and even less enjoyment. Actually it was more like b-musement than a-musement. There was no high-fiving or extra-rounds-on-me drinking or any such jubilation. I was eating a sandwich and drinking some inexpensive red wine. There was a kitten biting my foot and I really wanted to watch the latest movie to come from Netflix.

It was actually frustrating to sit and watch this game knowing what tomorrow likely brings. It was frustrating to sit their with non-Knicks fans and say, "see, we are good!" knowing that they didn't believe me. And shouldn't believe me. Because on a nightly basis this team isn't actually good. Even though it could be. I swear it to them.

For all the brief moments of exhiliration, there were longer, more thoughtful periods of exasperation as I watched David Lee score 17 points in the first half. He is the most active player on the court and makes Lebron's 15 points in the first half seem quite pedestrian. To put it simply, David Lee is playing like a star. Again, he had come off the bench and again he was the player who brought the most potential onto the floor. And, I'm not talking about Curry-type potential, the sort of potential that a real estate mogul sees in a pristine piece of undeveloped property that they can erect condominiums and golf courses on. I'm not talking about potential that needs wealth and resources and time to potentially extract if your risk/reward investment pays off. I'm talking about the sort of potential that exists in a battery or with a J. Crew gift card that you recieve as a Christmas present from your boss. There is a specific and very practical potential in those objects and it is the responsibility of the person who holds the object to make use of that potential. Use the battery in your television remote and enjoy a long, lazy college bowl season without getting off the couch. Or use the gift card to go buy a nice cable-knit sweater to keep warm through the long winter. However, how many wallets have old gift cards stuck between CVS discount cards or Border rewards cards or whatever else fills our Costanza-esque appendages? Hundreds? Thousands? Millions? Businesses love the invention of the gift card because so many go unused, meaning that they are taking in money in exchange for no goods and/or services. David Lee is that unused gift card, wasting away on the bench.

Seeing Lee lead the team in a win like this is all the more reason to fire Isiah Thomas. A win like this shows that there might be something salvageable here if we remove Isiah from the equation. This team has the horses to compete on any given night with almost any team and if you got them to the playoffs (and up to a 6 seed) then who knows what could happen in the AAA league that is the Eastern Conference. At the very least you buy some time and some goodwill for the new coach and the new general manager. You might also get a chance to really test the mettle of this group (under better conditions) before you hold the fire sale that we all know is coming and will cost us our better players along with our bad ones.

And even if the team doesn't turn it around after Isiah is removed they will still be better off. We'll be in line for a top pick in the draft and can draft one of these frosh phenom guards to be Steph's understudy for one season before taking over when his contract comes off the books. We'll be at the front of the line in the coach/GM searches when the season ends and every coach and exec out in the world will have all season to ponder if they want to throw their hat in the NY ring. Moreover, we'll have a chance to give Herb Williams a shot at coaching the squad and hopefully the sample size (if Dolan acts soon enough) will be enough to make a yay/nay decision on him for next year. We'll have the same chance to evaluate these players anew as well. What happens to this team if Isiah is gone and Lee and Balkman start? What happens to this team if Eddy Curry becomes a one-dimensional scorer who is deployed strategically off the bench? Who knows what could happen with a different coach and a different approach? I don't know. I hope it could be better and I think it is important to find out before we blow this whole thing up.

Therefore, a win like this shouldn't be something that "saves" Isiah's job or stays his execution. A win like this is all the more reason to fire him. Immediately.

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