Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"If he can't do it we'll have to find someone who can."

Steph is back. Isiah was forced to speak with a bit more detail about the situation. He still wants to keep everything in house, but he reiterated that Steph "is capable of leading this team playing great defense." He talked about the fact that all championship teams and players have to overcome some tough times. And, he also talked about the fact that his star point guard has to earn his place in the rotation.

We shall see. Either way Steph is back. He'll play tonight, but he won't start. He'll be joined by Zach Randolph, who has also returned to the team after taking his own leave of absense due to the death of his grandmother. Q might also play in spite of hyper-extending his elbow. Balkman is doubtful and so is Mardy Collins.

Tonight's result will go a long way towards figuring out what the story is tomorrow. Was yesterday the beginning of the end or the beginning of the beginning? We shall see.

The Most Publicized Personal Day in the History of Work

So, according to every media outlet on the Earth, Steph is back with the team. He'll be at the Staples Center tonight for the game agains the Clippers. Will he play? Will he even be on the bench? Will he score 40? Nothing would surprise me.

Considering Steph's television escapades over the summer and the recent malaise, it is not a stretch to say he is going through a rough patch. He may be entirely in the wrong with all that has transpired over the past 36 hours. But, he may not. All we really have to go on is hearsay and speculation. Reports from numerous outlets are that he has indeed been fined by the team. However, regardless of how he came to leave the team it is ENTIRELY on Isiah Thomas that this affair became a circus.

I was asked earlier tonight if "the can Knicks can do anything in anything less than the most embarassing way possible." With Isiah in charge the answer is no. Whether he wants Steph back or not. Whether he sent him home or not, he could have put a lid (relatively speaking) on this whole thing by making one defenitive statement yesterday. If he would have acknowledge that this issue wasn't merely in-house and would have addressed this in the fashion that a head coach, a general manager or a team president should be expected than the Knicks could have gone one more week without being a punchline again. However, Thomas skirted the issue yesterday. He smiled and he acted like there was nothing to talk about. He let the anonymous sources and the beat reporters do all the talking and create the story themselves.

And, therefore we've been hearing for 36 hours about how dysfunctional the team is. We've been hearing about discord in the locker room. We've been hearing about blackmail. Everyone in the press has been given an excuse to dredge up all of the problems of the past few years. We've revisited the previous buy-outs and the sexual harrasment trial. Yet, if Isiah would have started his press conference yesterday by saying something, anything then perhaps yesterday would just have been another personal day for another member of the American work force.

If Isiah would have said that "Stephon has left the team for personal reasons. He has my consent and will join us in Los Angeles" then this would not have been the lead story in every paper this morning. If Isiah would have said that "Stephon has left the team for personal reasons. He did not recieve permission and he will be issued a fine. We expect him to be with the team tomorrow in Los Angeles" then this is still the lead story but there is some semblence of order. There is some mirage of control by the coach. Isiah had every chance to shape the perception of this and he took a pass. In doing so he brought more dishonor to a once noble franchise and perhaps has severed the last tie with this most important player.

Around the Internets in Eighty Minutes

MLB Hot Stove Edition

1) Sad A-Rod, desperate Cashman team up to back door Boras? Film at Eleven.

2) And, starting at Catcher for the New York Mets: Rorvit Castrealba

3) Sox plan for life after Lowell

4) If a Kaz goes to the Cubs does it make a sound?

"In-House" for the Out-house.

Isiah Hates Me and Thinks I'm Not Very Smart

If the last 24 hours in Knick-land have taught us anything it is that Isiah Thomas does not care what you think and he doesn't think you are very smart. With his cheshire smile beaming forth last night before the game against the Suns, Isiah repeatedly referred to everything involving Steph as being an "in-house matter." Meaning, he wasn't going to answer any questions with any certainty. He wasn't going to tell anyone what happened. He wasn't going to defend his player. He wasn't going to castigate his player. He wouldn't comment on whether Steph had been sent away from the team or if he had fled from the team. He wouldn't confirm Steph's claim that he had permission to fly home. Nothing.

By refusing to deal plainly with the media and by extension the fans of the team, the coach has again shown that he has no respect for the people who root for the Knicks. He believes that we have no right to know what is happening and that we are too slow-witted and trusting to think that things are other than he says they are. It's a method of conflict resolution that he seems to have picked up from the Bush administration.

Yeah, Iraq is doing awesome. And the Knicks are too. Now, go out and have some fun, kids.

Yo Zeke

Um, Isiah. Mr. Thomas. Excuse me, but all of your statements on Marbury's departure from the team are ridiculous and useless. Wanting this to be an in-house matter cannot actually make it an in-house matter. As soon as your star point-guard started exchanging text messages with reporters at the New York Post about this whole boondoggle yesterday afternoon this stopped being in-house. Well, it actually stopped being in-house the moment that the only player on your roster to appear in an All-Star effectively ran away from home. When he left the house so did this story. People are aware what is happening and you have to deal with it. Now, I can understand why you may have wanted to keep a massive problem like this under wraps. However, that plan didn't work. And, you're only making matters worse by letting everyone speculate wildly about the outcome. OK? OK.

Hanging wih Carmen Sandiego

Where in the World is Stephon Marbury?

Apparently he is back in NYC this morning. Maybe eating breakfast right now. Maybe packing a bag to fly out to LA to play against the Clippers tonight. Maybe packing a bag to fly to Italy to play against La Fortezza tonight. Maybe he is just driving around in his truck thinking about old times. Who knows? Not me. And, not any of the intrepid writers who are on the case.

Is this just about Marbury being benched because of his play at the end of the Miami game? Is this about Dolan brining the hammer down on Isiah who is scapegoating his former pupil? Is this about an underachieving player who has just lost his desire? Is this a coach's teribbly executed plan at motivating one of his most gifted players? Is this about a sexual harrasment case in which Marbury's testimony didn't do anyone at MSG any favors?

Whatever it is about it isn't about winning basketball games. That much is clear after watching last night's game. Even if Steph's defense is porous he is still a better player than either Nate or Mardy. That is just a fact of the game. Nate is more exciting to watch and Mardy could, at some point, be better at keeping opposing players from getting into the paint, but neither is going to give the team a better chance to win tomorrow. Neither is likely to average 19 and 7. Oscar Robertson did that. Magic Johnson did that. Isiah Thomas did that. Stephon Marbury does that. And, lest we forget, almost every other player in the rotation prior to last night is subpar on the defensive end. Only Lee and Balkman are nominally considered D-oriented. And Lee still has a ways to come with his one-on-one defense. Q can play defense (and frequently does) but he is still a scorer first. So, that leaves Marbury with plenty of company in ineptitude.

According to Isola in the NEWS, Curry was also set to start last night's game on the bench before Steph flew back to NY. That makes a bit more sense. For all of his shortcomings as a player, it is hard to pin the team's defensive woes all on Steph. This move makes more sense if it were part of a larger move by Isiah intended to send a message to the team during a game that they would have been hard pressed to win even if they were playing well. Still, even if one were to give Isiah the benefit of the doubt regarding his intention there hasn't been a plan executed this poorly since Cobra Commander and Destro thought they could take over the world by controlling the weather.

All of that being said, there are number of ways in which the team could be better off with lesser players in Marbury's spot and we'll get into that later today.

As the Association Turns

Last Night's NBA action:

-Celtics win again. Pierce has 31. They're 6-0 and they haven't seen Marbury either.

-Sonics lose again. Durant has 10. They're 0-8 and this losing every night thing might start taking its toll on the little guy.

-Heat go back to losing against Bobcats. They're that bad. But they still won at New York on Sunday night. Pat Riley is threatening to play again.

-McGrady drops 41, but Memphis outlasts Rockets behind Gasol and Darko. The Darko Ages have begun.

-Kobe leads Lakers in scoring. Lakers lose. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.