Star(bury) of own show
With Dolan assist, Steph puts self above Knicks


By FRANK ISOLA
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Larry Brown and Stephon Marbury have yet to see eye-to-eye on anything.

The public stare-down between Larry Brown and Stephon Marbury - partially fueled by James Dolan's recent comments - is back on.

The Marbury-Brown relationship is the only thing capable of sinking lower than the Knicks' record, which is saying a lot. Marbury and Brown continue to take little digs at each other through the media - a Dolan pet peeve - with the only logical resolution being that one will have to go.

Whether it's Marbury or Brown who departs this summer and whether that decision is made by Dolan, Isiah Thomas or Brown is unclear. In the bizarro world of the Knicks, anything is possible, especially after Dolan gave Marbury a strong endorsement 12 days ago during his State of the Knicks address in Memphis.

Praising the Marbury years in New York, which Dolan actually did, ranks right up there with the Garden chairman declaring that winning isn't integral to the Knicks' strategy.

Dolan also expressed support for Thomas, his embattled team president, while sounding lukewarm about Brown, the Hall of Fame coach who has been to three NBA Finals and has rebuilt teams in San Antonio and Philadelphia.

When Dolan suggested that it's Brown's job to turn Eddy Curry from underachiever into All-Star, he appeared to be placing most of the blame for the season on Brown. Recent comments from Marbury suggest that the eternally dour point guard felt the same vibe.

"I went into this year trying to do something, to put myself in a situation where we can win, okay?" Marbury said on Saturday. "To help the team win games. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. So, what do I do now, as far as the way I play? I go back to playing like Stephon Marbury, aka Starbury. I haven't been Starbury this year. I've been some other dude this year."

You would be willing to cut Marbury some slack if he were still a senior at Lincoln High School. The fact that a 29-year-old man refers to himself in the third person as "Starbury" and believes that he's had a stellar career up until Brown arrived goes beyond ludicrous.

Is there no one in Marbury's circle of enablers to tell him how crazy he sounds?

It bears repeating that in the real world, Marbury has never gotten out of the first round of the playoffs and that his replacement in Phoenix, Steve Nash, won 62 games last season and captured MVP honors. We know Marbury has never been surrounded with talent. Yet, Nash is favored to repeat as MVP, winning with a lineup that now features Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, Eddie House and Tim Thomas.

Imagine the Suns' record if Starbury, and not Nash, was still their point guard. Imagine the Knicks' record with Nash instead of Marbury.

Brown just wants to imagine how much better his job and the locker room would become without Marbury.

Of course, Marbury dubbing himself "Starbury" isn't the most absurd thing to come out of his mouth. Long before Brown arrived, Marbury declared that he was the league's best point guard. Since making that astute observation, the Knicks have won 34 games. And lost 80.

Dolan deserves better. So do Thomas and Brown. One of the many problems former teammates had with Marbury was the idea that he was empowered by the organization. That changed when Brown showed up. But since Dolan spoke in Memphis, Marbury is being led to believe that he is part of the solution and not the cause of the problem.

Following a win over Milwaukee last week, Marbury said: "We're still trying to figure out what we're supposed to do on the basketball court."

Those comments came one day after Marbury elected to argue a non-foul call rather than play defense against Chicago's Ben Gordon. While Marbury protested, Gordon hit the go-ahead three-pointer.

On Saturday, Marbury complimented Charlotte rookie point guard Raymond Felton, saying, "He plays with so much confidence. (Bobcats coach Bernie) Bickerstaff, he does a great job of instilling that in his players. He allows players a lot of freedom, as you can see."

Ouch. Brown's most stinging comment about Marbury came when he said in December, "We don't have a head out there." Lately, he throws jabs at Marbury by praising Jalen Rose and Steve Francis as "ball movers."

Freedom, however. is coming soon to one of them. The Knicks, who play five straight at home starting tonight against Denver, have 21 games left. If Brown keeps his promise and doesn't walk away and Thomas keeps his promise to try to find Brown the players he wants, then Marbury is gone.

That is unless Dolan and Thomas share serious reservations about Brown and side with Marbury. Maybe Starbury knows something the rest of us do not.

On second thought, that's impossible.