June 23, 2008 --
Stephon Marbury is happy to look ahead to a Mike D'Antoni future, not an Isiah Thomas past. Marbury said he feels he has a new lease on his Knicks career, even if president Donnie Walsh and coach D'Antoni may look for a point-guard-of-the-future during Thursday night's draft.
With one year left on his pact, Marbury is trying to rejuvenate his ankle and image this offseason. Marbury will practice with the Knicks' summer league team in Las Vegas next month. He jogged the Hollywood Hills for a full month following Walsh's order to get in the best shape of his career.
Marbury is working out at the Knicks Westchester facility with an old Phoenix friend, former Suns assistant Phil Weber, now on D'Antoni's Knicks staff.
"I'm full throttle," Marbury said.
Had Thomas stayed in power, Marbury said he knows his contract would have been bought out after the season. In an interview with The Post yesterday, Marbury said his contract was nearly bought out in November amidst the Nov. 13 Phoenix fiasco, when Marbury left the Knicks reportedly because he wasn't going to start anymore.
According to Marbury, Thomas did not just want him out of the starting lineup for Mardy Collins Mardy Collins in November, Thomas wanted him out of the organization and sent him home to have his contract bought out. Marbury said he still doesn't know how things changed the next day, when summoned back to Phoenix, the talk of a buyout history.
"Going AWOL is something I never would do," Marbury told The Post. "I would never just get up and walk out on the team and say, 'I don't want to play because I'm not going to start.'
"Why would I want to lose $250,000?" Marbury said. "The fans thought I just left the Knicks because Mardy was going to start over me. I was sent home for other reasons, not because I wasn't going to start. He wanted to go in a different direction. (Thomas) felt I wasn't going to get the job done."
Thomas fined Marbury but never commented on why Marbury left Phoenix, even after Marbury appealed the fine and said to The Post he was told to leave.
It's over now, and though Marbury still can't explain the sudden rift with Thomas, he's hoping a new regime will give him a chance to reverse last season's tragedy.
Three loved ones passed away - his aunt, Helen, his AAU coaching mentor, Lou "Mr. Lou" Williams, and his father, Don. "I had to mourn in public," Marbury said.
Marbury played just 24 games last season. His season was over in January after left ankle surgery. The 23-59 Knicks were not better without Marbury, but he still became the poster boy for that record.
"People say I'm sulking on the bench because I have towel on my head," Marbury said. "I'm keeping my head warm. I've done it since college. When we're losing, yes, I look mad. I am mad. I hate losing. You want me to be jumping up and down happy when we're losing?"
Marbury discounts claims he's not right for D'Antoni's system because he's 31 and Phoenix already traded him in January 2004.
"Mike didn't trade me," Marbury said. "He didn't have that power then. It's the way I play - up and down. Seven seconds or less. How can I not fit into that? You can push the ball. He's a guard's coach. I still have four, five years at a high level. I'm only 31, not 41."