What would the Knicks look like with Kobe on board? KnicksOnline.com’s “Starks” was able to jump into the future on his lunch break and bring back a game wrap up from March of 2008.
|Kobe the Knick|
Los Angeles (AP) – Kobe Bryant’s return to Los Angeles might have been the big story, but the bigger one came from one of the players he was traded for. New fan favorite David Lee led the Lakers past the Knicks grabbing a league season high, 27 rebounds to go along with a modest 14 points and 4 assists in a blowout that ended with a final score of 127 - 98. Former Knicks Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford also contributed to the rout, but it was Lee who stole the spotlight in a game that was hyped for months.
“He plays hard every night, but there was definitely some added motivation tonight,” said head coach Phil Jackson on Lee. “I think he wanted to show the fans that things are okay for us going into the postseason without him [Bryant]”
Kobe Bryant, jeered on every possession, was visibly frustrated from the opening possession when he got called for a technical foul only 3 minutes into the first quarter. That set the tone for a long night for Kobe, shooting a woeful 6-29 in 32 minutes of play. Knicks coach Isiah Thomas had enough of Kobe and the Knicks horrible play be emptying his bench for the final quarter of play. Asked on if he was trying to send a message to his team, Thomas said, “I don’t think I could have made it any more clearer”
The win for the Lakers marked their 5th in row and moved them past the Denver Nuggets for the 6th seed in the playoff race. The Knicks’ loss however did not make them lose any ground in their own playoff hunt, but tensions in New York are starting to boil over. Kobe was seen headed toward the locker room in the middle of the 4th quarter, adding more fuel to the fire between him and Thomas.
“That was his own decision, so you’ll have to ask him,” said Thomas when asked on why Kobe left the game early.
Kobe was not available to speak with reporters after the game.
Just a day earlier Kobe grabbed headlines with an interview by Sports Illustrated where he reportedly said Isiah Thomas “lost the team seasons ago” and “Larry Brown was lucky he left the mess”. Neither Thomas nor Bryant has commented on the story since it was revealed. The Lakers, on the other hand, ironically have faired better than the Knicks since parting with their once beloved franchise player and Kwame Brown 6 long weeks ago. Los Angeles have grooved to a 12-6 record since the trade, spearheaded by David Lee and Jamal Crawford’s stellar play in Phil Jackson’s unshackled offense.
“The combination of playing in the west where its run and gun, and the opportunity to be guided by a Hall of Fame coach really helped revitalize my career” said Jamal Crawford.
Crawford, like Lee, has shined since leaving New York. Lee and Jamal have lead the NBA in rebounds and scoring since the trade deadline.
In New York questions remain on the status of Isiah Thomas, who has been in limbo for 3 seasons straight. Rumors of Jeff Van Gundy’s desire to return to the Knicks have surfaced since mid season, but with Bryant’s public critique of Thomas, the maligned coach’s nine lives may have finally expired. Both Van Gundy and Knicks owner James Dolan have been seen repeatedly together at Knicks headquarters in Penn Plaza recently. Dolan and Van Gundy had an unpleasant divorce during their last run together, but both Dolan and Van Gundy may be ready to move on.
With Kobe Bryant on board, the Knicks are desperately trying to gain their respectability back. It should be noted that the Knicks have not won a single playoff game since Van Gundy was at the helm. Still, Thomas appears to be unfazed by the rumblings.
“I’m not worried about my job. In this business former coaches have meetings and lunches with their old bosses all the time. I understand you guys have stories to write, but I’d appreciate it if I can read the paper once without hearing about when I’m going to get fired. I’ve been reading the same story for months, and here I am still doing my job,” said Thomas to a group of writers after the game.
This story only gets thicker with fans at the Garden continuing to cheer “Bring Back Gundy” during each game. Either way, one thing both Dolan and David Stern can be happy about is that the Knicks are finally relevant again.
Bryant’s technical foul in the first quarter was the earliest one called in a game this season. Many fans wore their old #8 Kobe jerseys with his last name scratched out and replaced by Lee’s last name. Zach Randolph’s 16 points and 11 rebounds were his 10th straight double double last night. Super Laker fan Jack Nicholson, perhaps getting geared for the playoffs, wore a Jamal Crawford jersey to the game.