Balkman and Morris _ the missing Knicks
A lot of readers ask why Renaldo Balkman's
stock has plummeted since his breakout rookie season and although he didn't say so flat-out Tuesday, Isiah Thomas
suggested the second-year forward isn't as focused as he was a year ago.
"The energy and effort that he brought to the game last year and the consistency _ he was able to change the game with his effort and his energy, and a lot on the defensive side of the ball _ that hasn't happened much this year," Thomas said.
Then asked whether Balkman's preseason ankle injury set him back or if he's missing the commitment of last season, veteran Isiah-watchers recognized that what he didn't say meant more than what he did: "I think the injury set him back a little bit."
In other words, the bigger bit is that Balkman isn't working as hard.
So, when the trade rumors start to blow between now and the Feb. 21 league deadline, expect his name to come up, a lot.
And scratch Balkman's name from the list of Thomas' "draft gems" _ which now no longer includes the departed Trevor Ariza
and Channing Frye
. The jury's still out on Nate Robinson
, which leaves David Lee
Speaking of "gems," remember the hue and cry over Thomas signing Randolph Morris
last spring, "an early lottery pick," as he was called?
Well, before Tuesday, Morris had played in exactly ONE game this season because, among other things, he's displayed the mobility of a lawn chair.
Thomas' explanation for the Kentucky big man not playing, though, was this: "He's a good player. He's a good rebounder. I think he understands the NBA concepts now in terms of pro offenses and pro defenses.
There are three guys playing in front of him [Eddy Curry
, Zach Randolph
, Lee] and with a veteran like Malik
], it's just been tough to get him court time."
Which begs the question: When does Isiah call this season a wrap and start force-feeding youngsters at the expense of veterans?
Not yet, apparently.
"If your team's playing better, you can kind of take some more chances with the young guys," he said. "But with the situation that we're in right now, you want to try and win as many games as you possibly can to get your team moving."
Good line from Isiah about spending time with his mom Monday night. They were watching "Deal or No Deal" (remember when Howie Mandel
was that weird comic who wore a plastic glove on his head and played Dr. Fiscus on "St.
Elsewhere" instead of the host of some schlocky prime-time quiz show?) and she watched a guy who had $79,000 turn down an opportunity for what turned out to be $111,000, her son said.
"She said, 'Oh man, he had $100,000, oh man,'" Thomas said. "I'm sitting there thinking to myself, 'I think you're doing all right, old lady.'"
Considering what he's made before the better part of $24 million he's still owed by the Knicks via his current contract, she should be.