Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Dust Has Settled: Now I Speak on Isiah

Horray for convincing the boss to allow me to sit in front of my computer all day and work on my five stories that are on deadline for Friday (anyone want to read about farmers markets or ambulatory surgery centers? Or better yet, a local chamber of commerce?). So I'm taking this opportunity not to pound out these stories (hey, deadline's Friday, not Wednesday, jackass), but to comment on an issue I've left untouched for a few days.

Over the winter, I made no attempt to hide my fanaticism for the New York Knicks. Despite their overpaid, underperforming roster, coach with an unbudging philosophy, and GM who judges the value of a trade by the best player on paper, I couldn't just turn off the Knicks. Being a fan in 2005-2006 was comparable, I think, to being a Los Angeles Dodgers fan: your team usually does modestly well, sometimes they crank it up, and it's a shock to see them in such a terrible way. Apropos, the Dodgers also hit a bit of a slump in 2005, but that's beyond the point.

Anyone who follows the NBA knows that the Knicks problems lie within Isiah Thomas, and therefore within the man who signed off on his silly transaction, James Dolan. Everything from the surrender of valuable draft picks to the acquisitions of undesirable players has been the fault of Isiah and his enablers. He is inarguably the most despicable executive in all of sports, and as a reward has been handed the head coaching job of my beloved Knicks.

[MORE]One would expect an outcry from my general direction, but I've been silent to this point. When big, media-friendly news like this breaks, I like to sit back and watch the spectacle for a few days. What good does it do to speak on this issue when everyone is shouting at the top of their lungs? I don't dig the whole, “the louder the argument, the better” mantra that has ruled the media, so my path was to sit back and wait for the dust to settle. This way, I can speak reasonably and at a normal volume.

The season hadn't been over for 48 hours before the first rumblings about Larry Brown's job security made their rounds. Though, job security may not be a wholly accurate term; it's tough categorize someone as insecure when he is guaranteed $60 million. It's widely understood that Larry Brown wasn't going to succeed with this assemblage of players, so cutting the cord wasn't the worst idea in the world, provided you're willing to eat a wad of cash. But it's not my money, so I advocated the move.

What inspired a perturbed phone call from a buddy was the coupling news: Isiah Thomas was the speculated successor. Even though it was just a rumor at the time, my buddy was livid. “You know it's going to happen. It makes too little sense to not happen!” I agreed that it was a near certainty, but my opinion of the move was quite different.

I'm thrilled that Isiah is coaching this team. My reasoning stems from a very basic principle of mathematics: multiply a negative by a negative and you get a positive. The Knicks roster is a negative, as is Isiah. Maybe they can prove so vastly incompetent that they'll excel.

Of course, the above statement is made in a facetious manner, but I honestly do wonder about this combination. Has there ever been a group of players this bad coached by a man equally as terrible? Do we have a precedent here? If not, how can anyone speculate as to how horrid this season will turn out?

The easy and most common reaction from Knicks fans is that Isiah will learn a valuable lesson: he's a horrible GM and coach. This camp puts the over/under at roughly 12 wins, and predicts that Isiah will be fired once the Knicks officially fall out of the playoff race. While I don't necessarily agree with this model, I can't say it's without merit. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to see the Knicks begin and end the season in the cellar.

Then you have my, “a negative and a negative is a positive” camp, in which I believe I'm the only member. There's no substantial base to this claim, so I'm just going to pass it by and allow you to think me an idiot.

The final camp is the one that scares me the most. What if Isiah manages to do what he did in Indiana? What if he employs an offensive scheme that can bond these incompatible players? What if they end up winning half their games and squeak into the playoffs? This will surely save Isiah's job and leave us with a few more years of misery. In fact, this is the worst thing that could possibly happen.

Any true fan of the team must pray for the most horrible season in NBA history. Any improvement upon 2005-2006 and Isiah might keep his job. And honestly, who wants to sit through year after year of mediocre play, an 8th seed in the playoffs, and a first-round exit? I'd much rather see a 2-80 season, the severing of ties with Isiah, and a fresh start.

Then again, when we all called for Scott Layden's ouster, we got Isiah.