The news of Isaiah Thomas's contract extension should not come as a surprise to anybody who has been following the Knicks during the Dolan era. I have been quietly watching the Knicks roller coaster ride over the past few years, but nothing ever provoked me to speak up until today. This news is extremely troubling to me for a few reasons which I am about to get into. I would appreciate any feedback on my comments.
OK, lets analize Isaiah's tenure in NY a little bit. Ready? Here goes. First came the signature move to get Stephon Marbury a player who has proven to be talented enough to pique the interest of teams but has never proven to be a winner. The reasoning was that Steph is a NY guy, and what better place to prove that he can win than NY? Surely his move back home will inspire him to become the player that he is capable of being and most importanly it will inspire him to learn how to win right? WRONG! Isaiah started off on the wrong foot by jumping to bring in a player who has never won anywhere. Steph is the type of player who really drives fans crazy by flashing his tremendous skills at times while most of the time proving that his critics are correct in saying that he is a shooting guard in a point guards body. Starbury has once again proven that he is incapable of leading a team to victories on a consistent basis and he has certainly done nothing to show that he is a true floor general.
Jamal Crawford was a streak scorer in Chicago. With the Bulls, Crawford has never shown an ability to be anything BUT a streak scorer and to this day Crawford is still the same streak scorer that he always was. These types of players can be extremely useful when coming off the bench and playing 15 minutes a game while getting the occasional start when injury strikes. As a matter of fact, most great teams have a Jamal Crawford. However, problems start when you expect consistency from Crawford types. You REALLY can run into problems when you need Crawford types to carry much of the scoring load on a nightly basis. This is exactly what Thomas expected when he picked up Crawford and he is paying the price as we all are.
Eddie Curry was supposed to become the next Shaq when he was drafted by the Bulls straight out of H.S. Everyone excused Curry when he wasn't producing, saying that he is raw and needs a few years to develop...fair enough. Then Curry started to show his potential during his final season in Chicago promting Isaiah to gamble yet again on a player who has proven NOTHING during his few years in an NBA uniform. "But Curry is starting to emerge as a franchise player" you say. "Look at all of those 20 point games, this guy is going to be awsome" Right? Well maybe, but most likely it is all down hill from here for Curry. I know that many of you will disagree with me on this one, but hear me out for a second. As soon as the league started to take notice of Curry, the double teams started to come at him. How has Curry responded? By proving that he has absolutely ZERO court vision, a quality that every great center must have in order to exploit the double team and discourage defenses to employ it while facing you. Moreover, this is one of the most difficult qualities to teach since natural basketball instincts are a must in order to perfect the art of passing out of a double team. Unfortunately, Curry does not have much in the way of natural basketball instincts as evidenced by his 3 and four rebound performances which we have almost come to expect from him. Sure Curry has the token double digit rebound games once in a while, but can someone explain to me how a huge guy like Curry can ever have a 3,4,5 rebound game?? Obviously Curry does not have much in the way of natural ability and court smarts.
One more thing about Thomas that I feel is worth mentioning (and no I don't mean Jerome James which is not even worth getting into), is his drafting skills. The draft is where most Knick fans believe that Thomas proves his critics wrong. After all, Channing Frye showed so much promise during his rookie year. Nate has shown the ability to pump up the teams at times whith his amazing energy, and David Lee is a bona fide double double guy on a nightly basis. As for Balkman? Well he has shown some energy as well and he seems like a real team guy, so maybe Thomas was correct about him as well. OK, lets cut to the chase over here. Until further notice, Frye is a decent shooter who can't defend 90% of the power forwards in this league and has proven that his predraft critics were correct about his lack of toughness. Nate has proven to be nothing more than a side show and most teams wouldn't even project him as a decent backup point guard in the NBA. Lee is a solid contributor who is one of the only bright spots on the team, Thomas can give himself a pat on the back for that one. The worst pick however was Balkman. When the Knicks turn came to make their pick that year, I was sure that Marcus Williams was going to be the guy and I was elated. A projected lottery pick before his off the court problems at UCONN, Williams was a Big East guy with a penchant for the big moment. If you want to talk about court instincts, Williams has shown that he is tremendous in that area during his time at UCONN. What did Thomas have to lose by picking Williams? Why stretch for a guy like Balkman when you had Marcus Williams a potential future all star available?
The jury is still out on both Balkman and Williams. I think that most would agree that Williams has shown a real knack for finding the open man and running an offense during his rookie year in NJ. Balkman has spent most of his time on the bench but may become a really nice roll player/defensive specialist. However, the question begs to be asked; Why is Thomas so quick to gamble on guys like Marbury, Curry and Crawford and not willing to gamble on a guy like Williams? The 3 afformentioned failures were failures on other teams as well and should not have been looked at as gambles but rather they were dumb moves as most people said that they would be.
The jury is NOT out on Thomas anymore. As the Raptors and Pacers can also tell you, this guy is an incompetent GM/Coach and can only dig the Knicks into a deeper hole. I hope to be proven wrong on this as I love the Knicks, but this contract extension seems to be a horrible move from an owner who has not made anything BUT horrible moves during his time in MSG. As a Knick fan I feel nothing but despair when I hear that our owner gives a vote of confidence to the coach who has "amazingly" led the Knicks from the cellar to playoff contention. The best thing about being in playoff contention is that we don't have to suffer through another draft lottery watching another team picking in our place. Other than that....what have we become?