Extend kudos for Isiah's relentless pursuit of mediocrity? Nooo!
March 13, 2007
By Larry Dobrow
Special to CBS SportsLine.com
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Like many Knicks fans, upon hearing that coach/GM/smiley guy Isiah Thomas was inked to a contract extension, my first impulse was to retreat into a fetal position in the bathtub and cry.
My second was to call a well-run, long-suffering franchise like the Raptors and ask what kind of incentives (a Toast-R-Oven?) it's offering to would-be bandwagon fans.
My third was to crank up the local sports radio station and bask in the aural spectacle of outer-borough imbeciles spewing venom while proposing Kevin Garnett-for-Jamal Crawford, Channing Frye and Jerome James swaps.
Oddly, the venom never materialized.
In fact, now that the Knicks have come within yodeling distance of respectability for the first time in two years, there seems to be some pro-Isiah sentiment wafting to and fro. As recently as three months ago, this seemed as likely a scenario as an aardvark mastering conversational German, or a Cablevision-owned team winning a playoff game.
The case for Isiah? His players, most notably Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury, play harder for him than they have for anybody else. The team looks like a lock for a 15-game improvement over last year's hardwood halftards.
Wearing his GM propeller beanie, Isiah has assembled a young core (Curry, Crawford and David Lee) that should ensure some minimal level of competitiveness for the next few seasons. Madison Square Garden (motto: "ATMs by every concession stand!") is hopping again, occasionally even on the nights when the Knicks are playing.
The Kool-Aid sure goes down easy enough, don't it? Listen long enough and you can almost lull yourself into believing that .500 is a gift, and Isiah is our bountiful Santa.
Screw that. The contract extension reeks, as does its recipient. It shows, in fact, an almost willful disregard for the intelligence of the franchise's fans.
Yes, his core guys are trying harder than they did under Larry Brown. But without actually changing into nightgowns and treating themselves to a midcourt siesta, could they try any less?
Besides, it's not like this supposed sea change in effort has been consistent. Wins over the Bulls (in December) and Lakers (in both January and February, the first without Kobe in the lineup) were followed the next night by express-mail-it-in jobs against the Sixers, Bobcats and Warriors. One step forward, one step back -- call it the mediocrity foxtrot.
The Curry deal looks like a savvy one, especially now that the Knicks don't figure to finish in the league's bottom 12 teams (which would make the 2007 first-round-pick swap still owed the Bulls a tougher pill to swallow).
He boasts what the less bookish among us might call "mad hopz" in the paint, along with a slate of low-post moves that make him a must for double-team treatment. At the same time, however well this move has worked out, Isiah left the franchise massively exposed by failing to lottery-protect the pick.
Then there's the litany of failed moves that, somehow, seem to have been swept under the rug during the breathless pursuit of an eight seed...