Monday, November 27, 2006

One Big Happy Family

Stephon Marbury got his wish this offseason. His friend and confidant Isiah Thomas took over as head coach of the Knicks. It supposed to be peaches and cream for Starbury this year, but it instead looks like the beginning of the end of a beautiful relationship.

Marbury didn't even attempt a shot in the Knicks last game and his offensive output has been anemic this year. Isiah has resorted to benching him for large stretches of the game as the second unit attempts to pull the Knicks out of the mess that the first unit has created. Marbury is now openly sulking on the bench and refusing to acknowledge his teammates efforts on the court when he is not in the game. This is the kind of situation that Isiah was supposed to be able to avoid. One of the reasons that the Knicks gave for firing Larry Brown was because he didn't communicate with his players. Isiah is now getting a taste of what Brown had to deal with last year. Overpaid, underproducing malcontents who refuse to bend to the will of the coach, even for the good of the team.

How is Isiah going to react to this situation? Well, he has started talking in the press, but it has yet to reach the open levels of warfare that the Brown-Marbury situation reached last year. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before they are bad mouthing each other openly in the press. Marbury was supposed to have free reign this year. This was supposed to be his team. However, the starting five has been lackluster to say the least. They lack energy and creativity. Marbury has watched from the bench as the 2nd unit, led by Jamal Crawford, David Lee and Nate Robinson have played the kind of uptempo, high energy style that is supposed to be a Marbury trademark. Isiah has insisted on starting him with Steve Francis in the backcourt, which has to be one of the most mismatched starting guard combos of all time. I have no idea why Isiah thinks that they can work together on the court. Marbury is the kind of player who needs to have the ball in his hands in order to be effective. Francis is much the same way. Marbury will at least pass the ball once in a while, Francis is a black hole on offense. Balls come his way and he will proceed to dribble until there are a few seconds left on the shot clock and then fire up an off balance, ill-conceived shot. This experiment has already proved to be a disaster. It's clear that neither player knows what his role is supposed to be and if they do know what their roles are, they are refusing to play them.

James Dolan is the kind of person who thinks that throwing money at a situation will fix it. In the case of Starbury that is partially true. I'm sure once this situation gets a little more out of hand, the Knicks will do everything within their power to trade him. I'm think that eventually they may just have to buy out the remainder of his contract and let him walk. The knicks are clearly not going to get any better with him as a member of the team. If he were benched, I'm fairly sure that he would do his level best to sow the seed of discontent among his teammmates. Francis also has to go. If the Knicks are to improve, they must develop the kind of team mentality that Francis and Marbury are apparently unwilling or unable to develop. They are "me" first players. That will not work in the kind of system that Isiah and Larry Brown for that matter, tried to bring to the team. Also neither of them are the kind of players who can carry a team on his back. Hell if Kevin Garnett can't do it, they sure as hell can't, and he's twice the player that they are.

Isiah supposed has a year to show improvement in this team. If he insists on starting Marbury and Francis then the Knicks will be in the same situation they were last year. The young players are more than willing to provide the team with maximum effort when they are on the floor. They actually seem to be enjoying themselves when they are playing. Marbury and Francis look like they are playing out a death sentence and that is exactly what they will doom the Knicks to if they are given the majority of playing time in the backcourt. As the saying goes, "be careful of what you wish for, because you just might get it". Welcome to the Knicks 2006 season. You can check out, but you can never leave.



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