Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's Time

The team was fighting on the sideline last night. They turned the ball over 23 times tonight. They lost by 40 points to a very mediocre team. The roster is uneven. The players are at odds with one another. There are no defined roles. There is no exit strategy. And, the financial mismanagement means it will likely stay that way.

Tonight's 84-124 loss to the Sixers is the worst of the season. By a long-shot. It won't get the same attention in the media but this was a far worse loss than the Boston massacre earlier in the year. That was a blow-out at the hands of an elite team reveling in its superiority. This was a beat down administered by a team with no clear-cut advantages over the Knicks. This wood-shedding had nothing to do with a talent-gap. Rather, it was about execution, effort and strategy. It was about all of the facets of the game that a coach and his players have control over. Or, at least could have control over.

However, for the second night in a row Isiah Thomas showed that he has absolutely no control over this team. He doesn't intervene when they fight with each other and he cannot intervene when they have no fight in them. He is meaningless. The Knicks win when things break their way and they lose when things don't. Isiah brings absolutely nothing to the equation and his only noteworthy effect on the team during any given game is that his presence prohibits a different coach from having the opportunity to make a difference.

Isiah Thomas should be fired. Today

And, it best happen before he is allowed to make another trade. Before he can further bury this club by bringing in someone like Vince Carter. If he brings in someone else like that he makes the job that less desirable for replacements and potentially earns himself another few weeks reprieve to work with his "new" roster. He should be fired before that. He may not be. In fact, he probably won't be. But he should be. Even fans on the road chant for this guy to get sacked. They cheered for it tonight in Philly and they do it elsewhere. And, this is more than mere schadenfreude (which, obviously, is part of it). Fans of basketball want him to be fired.

Again, I repeat: Isiah Thomas should be fired. For the sake of the team. For the sake of the fans. For the sake of the league.

With all of the endless blathering about the Kidd trade that we've endured in the past week or so we've frequently heard the refrain that such a trade would be "good for the league." Forgetting that I don't think that should be a factor in such dealings, let's acknowledge that the removal of Isiah Thomas would be ever better for the league. And, if trades can be endorsed or rubber stamped because they help the competitive landscape then why can't coaching changes. After all, reviving the Knicks would do more for the league than adding another piece to one of many contenders in the West.

The Knicks are a charter franchise of the NBA and one of its marquee clubs. There are supposed to be a draw on the road. Just the same way that the Yankees are in baseball. However, fans in other NBA cities don't want to see this team. They don't want to (over)pay for tickets only to leave late in the third quarter because the game is either a blowout or a close contest that closely resembles the Thursday night game at the local YMCA.

Fire Isiah. It's Time. And, it's for the good of the league.


That's what Isiah called it. Some words were exchanged. Zach threw some water at Nate. Who, then, threw a towel back at Zach. It looked like bickering and childishness. But, I guess it could be called feistiness. What do you think?

You watch this and you just roll your eyes. Jokes are made. Or, rather, old jokes are re-made. This fits right into the season's story line. Except for the fact that it happened right smack in the middle of a great run of play in which the team stormed back to tie a game late and then broke the franchise record for most points (23) scored in an overtime period.

Usually, you watch a team over the course of a season, and, if you're really, really watching (meaning, you have little social life and spend too much time on the couch. Check. And Check.) then you get a handle for what a team is like. For how they interact. For who gets along. For who is in the doghouse. In other words, you know what to make of something like this little spat between Nate and Zach.

But, I must admit that on a fundamental level I still don't really know this team. From Isiah's maniacally wavering proclamations to the closed-mouth media policy that keeps the players from saying too much this is really an inscrutable group. I guess I have vague impressions of a few players that I feel are pretty accurate. I think I have a handle on Crawford, Lee, Rose, Richardson, Nate, Eddy and Zach. But, I have no idea how they really feel about each other. How they fit together. I'm at a loss as to how these guys really feel about this team. About staying in New York. About winning games. I'm sure some of them would like to get on the first train out. I think some of them could go either way. And, I'm sure other want to stay, provided they get to choose who is on the first train out.

I guess it's for the best that I don't know them because then I won't be too upset when this team looks radically different on Friday morning.

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Nate Robinson. The little-guy got the start last night against the Wiz and played 38 minutes. He scored six of the Knicks last 8 points as they forced overtime. Nate ended up with 19 points, to go along with 8 rebounds and 5 assists. And, he finally cracked got the start. Finally.

2. Jason Kidd. To be honest, the road to Finals would have been far easier for this guy if he would have simply decided to play hard in New Jersey. But, he didn’t want that and he got exactly what he wanted: He now leads a far superior team in the much more difficult conference. He'll be playing with the best and against the best. I know that we’ve all been blitzed with stories about how much everyone involved needed this deal to get done and how it was for the good of the game. Um, I don’t really think so. And, I find it hard to root for Kidd to get a ring after he has forced himself off yet another team.

3. The Nets. Given the circumstances the Nets made out pretty well. In my opinion. They moved a malcontent who had made it clear that he was not going to bring full-effort any longer. And they got back a 25-year old replacement who has proved himself just a small step below the league’s best point guards (who are now all in the West). It’s possible that the Nets just traded the best point guard in the East and landed the best point guard in the East all in one swoop. Aside from clearing cap space heading towards the future (when they’re clearly hoping to use to lure Lebron to Brooklyn), the Nets also got two first-round draft picks, the second of which is not lottery-protected. They got Desagna Diop, a solid #2 center, who will highlight how awful Jason Collins really was. Diop is used to banging with Amare Stoudamire so I think he’ll handle Eddy Curry. Yes, there are two spare-parts in Hassell and Auger coming over but they’re not too objectionable and essentially just replace the two spare-parts that the Nets sent to Big D. And, to top it all off, the Nets are going to get a visit from old-pal Van Horn rather than having to buy-out Stackhouse, who was never even coming by to say hello. Oh, and they got $3 million back. Lastly, they’ve officially blown up this version of the team which means Thorn could justify shipping out Carter even though he just extended his contract.

4. Shaq. The Big Hold-Up will try to keep pace with the Suns offense starting tonight. Against the Lakers. And Kobe. Shaq claims that he’s "going to be looking to get out like Randy Moss and Terrell Owens."

5. Keith Van Horn. This guy hasn’t played since the 2006 playoffs. He’s been sitting at home maybe occasionally heading to a local elementary school to shoot around for an hour or two. Other than that he's probably been driving to Dairy Queen and smoking butts. Or, at least, those are things he did when he lived in the town where I grew up. And, on Monday he got handed about four million dollars just so the Mavs could finalize the deal for Jason Kidd. He’s getting $4 million in guaranteed NBA-monies just to hop a flight to Newark Airport and hang out with Vince Carter for a few days. After that, he can head home or, if he feels like it, play some basketball. Now, that, is good work. If you can get it.

It Was Exactly the Same, Except the Opposite

I Have Deja Vu as the Knicks Comeback to Beat Wiz in OT

This was the same game that I sat and watched two Fridays ago. I remember it exactly. I was eating cereal and the Knicks were playing the Spurs at home. Last night's game against the Wiz in Washington was that game. Almost step for step. But in reverse. And I was eating cereal. Again. Weird.

In the Knicks/Spurs game the score was close after one quarter. Last night the score was close after one. In both games the home team built a lead that reached 9 points during the third quarter. Yet the road team clawed back to within three as the whistle sounded to start the fourth quarter. Two Fridays ago, the Knicks seemed to ward off the Spurs run to take an 81-72 lead with about seven minutes to play last time. Lat night, the Wizards seemed to ward off the Knicks run to take an 80-71 lead with about five minutes left. However, in each game, the road team (Spurs and Knicks) closed regulation on a blistering run (15-7 and 19-10 respectively) as the home teams (the Knicks and Wizards) couldn't hit a shot or get a stop. Manu Ginobli hit a three to force overtime at the Garden. The score was knotted at 88. Last night, Jamal Crawford hit a free-throw with less than twenty seconds left to force overtime at the Verizon Center. The score was knotted at 90. In both games the road team that had come back to force OT had all the momentum and stormed out the gate as the home team allowed uncontested buckets in the paint. The Spurs scored seven straight to start the overtime period. The Knicks scored eleven straight to start the overtime period. Both teams won.

It was the same game. Just the opposite.

What does this mean? Well, it means that the Knicks can win just as dramatically as they lose. It means that they have been, apparently, capable of winning some of the games they've dropped the last two weeks. It means that a basketball team is only as good as the last quarter it played. And, it means that we've got to be ready for anything the rest of the way.

Or, maybe it means that every regular season NBA game is essentially the same game. And, maybe, this is why most people don't care...