Fier Thy Words

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The Tragedy That Is the New York Knicks

12/12/07

I was having lunch with the one and only Scott Spinelli this afternoon and he pointed out that I haven’t spoken about sports in a while.

I was actually holding out some hope that the sports would would have given me something positive to write about. The Mets were trying to make a trade for a big time starting pitcher, while the Knicks were playing themselves out of contention and importance…in December (the regular season ends in April). And I was figuring with the Knicks losing that the Great Isiah would once and for all be shown the door.

And yet as of now, the Mets are in my opinion a less impressive team than the one that pulled off that historic collapse last season, while the more the Knicks lose, the firmer a grasp on his job Isiah Thomas seems to have.

And if that were not enough, when it rains in my sports life, it pours.

Syracuse decided two weeks to keep our head football coach after winning a combined 7 games in his first 3 seasons (coupled with 28 losses).

But thats ok, because Syracuse will always have its basketball program with Jimmy Boeheim. Don’t we?

Well, since winning the National Championship in 2003 thanks to ‘Melo and Gerry, Syracuse has won 2 NCAA tournament games, both of which were the following year. Since then we not only have yet to win another tourney game, but we flat out got exiled from it last season.

Add to that the fact we already have lost two…TWO non-conference games at home to UMASS and URI, we appear to be heading to another NIT birth, if we’re lucky.

The Jets? Is it even worth bringing them up? 3-10 to this point, and this weekend we play god’s team…no, not the Dallas Cowboys- they’re America’s team. I’m referring of course to the undefeated New England Patriots, who at 13-0, at home, are 24 point favorites to win.

And so while I am still waiting for the right time to unleash my off-season New York Mets rant…and when it comes, (to quote Terrell Owens) get your popcorn ready.

So right now, I’ll spare them, the Jets, and Syracuse. The object of my wrath therefore will be the New York Knickerbockers.

It’s really hard to believe that it was less than 10 years ago the Knicks were not only relevant in the sports world, but they were a winning franchise who had New York City in the palm of its hand.

They were well coached and constantly overachieving despite a lack in pure talent, playing intense defense behind Jeff Van Gundy.

1999 saw them make an improbable push as an 8 seed to the NBA finals against the Spurs.

The Knicks would lose in 5 games, playing without the injured big fella….

AT CENTER, 7 FEET FROM GEORGETOWN, NUMBER 33, CO-CAPTAIN

PA-TRICK EWING

…sorry I was a having a Knicks starting lineup moment

And so after their failed attempt at getting big Pat his ring, the team slowly began to deteriorate.

Just 2 seasons late, JVG quit 20 games into the season, realizing his team was going nowhere and being unable to coach in the environment that was Madison Square Garden, run by the anti-Christ that is James Dolan. And I don’t blame him.

Patrick was traded to Seattle, ending a long run in New York that never produced a title, and saw one of best athletes to play in New York go under-appreciated and unfairly scapegoated for never hoisting a trophy.

The Knicks went on to be eliminated int he first round in 2001, and the losing ways began.

Fast forward to the winter of 2003, and what looking back now can be considered one of the darkest days in Franchise history. Hell, you could call it one of the darkest days in the history of New York City sports.

On December 22nd, 2003, Isiah Thomas was hired as President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks.

And among the events which have taken place since his hiring are the following:

  • Traded for Stephon Marbury
  • Hired Lenny Wilkins to coach, replacing the fired Don Chaney
  • Grossly overpaid for Jerome James (has avergaed fewer than 3.0 points per game) and Jared Jefferies (defensive specialist who seems incapable of stopping anybody)
  • Had Lenny Wilkins “resign”
  • Hired Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown
  • Fired Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown after one disasterous 23-59 season
  • Traded for the overpaid and over-the-hill Steve Francis
  • Named himself Head Coach, despite saying upon his arrival doing both jobs would be too much for one person
  • Has seen his team go more than 100 games below .500 since arriving.
  • Traded for Zach Randolph, who has a history of arrests and poor behavior, not to mention being known as a selfish player who plays no defense (which we have learned to be true.

and of course lets not leave out…

  • Was accused and convicted of Sexual Harassment this summer, resulting in a settlement of 11.5 million dollars being awarded to the plaintiff.

Thats right, the man was convicted of a legitimate crime.

Sure, the arguments have been made that Isiah drafts well, which could be useful for trying to rebuild. Unfortunately, as true as that is, his deficiencies outweigh his (very limited) abilities as a head coach and general manager.

He cannot coach his way out a bag and cannot run a business, team or league (the CBA) worth a damn.

So aside from the terrible personnel moves he has made. And aside from the fact that hes gone through more head coaches, including himself (4) than playoff games won (0) or winning seasons (0), and aside from the fact that he was convicted of a crime which cost his boss almost 12 million dollars..

Isiah Thomas remains the President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach of the New York Knicks.

Lets face it. The man is about as untouchable as you can be in the professional world. Find me another person who can be as bad at his job as he has been, added to that the fact he was convicted of sexual harassment, has been given more job security the Isiah Thomas.

Now I have only been watching Knicks basketball since I was 9, meaning that my 11 years do not come close to the Knicks fan who suffered through the late 70’s and early (pre-Patrick Ewing) 1980’s.

It also means that I was not able to experience the years between 1987 and 2001 where they never once missed the playoffs, with the exception of the last 4 or 5, of which I was too young to really appreciate a lot of.

I can assure you, the Knicks were not always this bad, and not always this pathetic.

Yet one of the problems I see, and I’ve been told this from a number of people, that as long as people, like myself, continue to show up at the world’s most famous arena, Dolan will continue to keep things status quo. Which means more Stephon Marbury, more Isiah Thomas, and more losing.

Sadly, the NBA is a better league when the Knicks are good. They are a marquee team in a league that can be carried by its premier franchises, be it the Knicks, Lakers, Celtics, etc.

It has gotten to the point where I can’t figure out what will be a better result for this team on a nightly basis.

If and when they actually win a game, it gives fans a false sense of hope that things are not as bad as they really are.

Yet when they lose, not only do the fans (myself included) still show up and watch the games, but Isiah seems to get another vote of confidence.

Its mind-boggling.

So what now?

I wish I had the answer. Firing Isiah Thomas has been the first answer for over a year now, yet that just doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon. Trading Stephon or anybody else on this roster is going to be difficult because of how undesirable these players are.

The best thing at this point would to be for Knicks fan to simply stop caring, if only to prove a point that what is going on is simply unacceptable for a team as historically significant as the Knicks. When we stop going to games and putting more money in the pockets of James Dolan, maybe he will be given a sufficient reason to make the necessary changes.

My message to Knicks fans is that in order for things to get better, we have to turn our backs on our beloved boys in Orange and Blue and let them rot without an audience.

The sooner that happens, the sooner we may be able to once again watch them compete and be more meaningful on the back pages for what they do on the court than they have become on the front pages for what they do off the court.

Until then, I will continue to think about the better times, when Allan Houston was hitting running jumpers over Miami and Larry Johnson was completing 4 point plays against Indiana.

When The names Starks, Oakley, Harper and Mason were worthy of the price of admission.

Until then, I will continue to wait and hope for the days where getting a ticket to a Knicks game is harder than finding members of Al Queda.

To think it will be like this forever is crazy, and knowing that all of this misery will at some point come to an end could be considered the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Unfortunately, it may be a long time until that light gets any brighter.

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December 12, 2007 - Posted by | Sports

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