Decoding The Knicks’ Quasi-Firing of Isiah
And now the other shoe has fallen. Sort of. Kind of. In a way.
As expected, Donnie Walsh has taken the New York Knicks coaching job away from Isiah Thomas. Also as expected, Isiah will still remain with the Knicks organization. In what role? Well, nobody knows. Initial reports indicate that Isiah doesn’t have a title and will only be reporting to Walsh.
If you think that’s kind of goofy, I’d offer that there’s a precedent in corporate America. Sometimes if a person is on contract and they’re the center of some sort of problem, that person is pulled out of their office/unit/duties and put on individual projects reporting only to one person (presumably, somebody who can deal with them) until their contract runs out. Sometimes this happens when management doesn’t think the fault lies with the person in question, sometimes because they don’t want to pay a buy-out, and sometimes to avoid a lawsuit. With Isiah, I’d say the reasoning would be between #1 and #2.
Isiah signed a big ‘ole contract extension and Young Mister Dolan probably doesn’t want to drop a lump sum on that. Especially when his daddy’s been on his case about how the Knicks have been run. Dolan also seems to have a legitimate fondness for Isiah.
Not to say that the Thomas era hasn’t been a clusterjob of epic proportions, right down to fan relations (see: The New York Knicks Hymnal), but that’s not to say Isiah doesn’t have a few good points. If you look at his drafts and his roster, you have to admit that Isiah is a good judge of basketball talent. He’s shown little ability to identify complimentary talent or how to blend his players on the court, but in terms of raw talent, that’s there.
Who’s the worst player Isiah has ever drafted? Maybe Fred Jones? In the greater scheme of things, Jones is a long way from being a bust. He’s stuck around. He has multiple contract offers. You were scratching your head when Balkman was picked, and maybe he was grabbed early, but Balkman can play. Damn near every Knicks fan loves David Lee. Mardy Collins is adequate, if not great. Nate Robinson has his moments. Channing Frye was better than advertised. Isiah was involved when the Pistons picked up Lindsay Hunter, who’s had a long career. Isiah also pulled the trigger on high school kid, Tracy McGrady. Another early entry candidate is Trevor Ariza, always a jumpshot away from being a star, and whom I’m curious to see what Phil Jackson can do with.
Send Isiah to the college circuit. He’ll tell you if the kids can play. You want him to evaluate pro players, that shouldn’t be a problem. You just need to have him huddling with a coach who’s describing what he’s looking for and have somebody holding a stick over him, so that he focuses on the complimentary skills needed, not assembling the video game all-star team where chemistry doesn’t count.
Is Isiah a good scout for games? At this point, you’d think he’d be able to identify what teams are doing and think of counters, but the question is his ability to communicate that info in a useful way. His record, of late, would suggest that communication wasn’t there.
Yes, Isiah can help the Knicks, as long as he’s part of a system with checks and balances. And the kind of money he’s getting, ostensibly to get brain-picked by Walsh, he needs to be helpful.