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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Coach Isiah Thomas

KnickerBlogger: Isiah Thomas started off the 2007 with a lot of pressure on his shoulders. New York had just come of a disastrous 23 win season under Larry Brown. Thomas was widely criticized for taking Renaldo Balkman in the draft. The Knicks’ owner James Dolan gave Thomas an order to improve the team or pack his bags. Thomas was forced to take over as coach of the Knicks, something he promised he wouldn’t do. His reputation as a coach and a general manager were both on the line. In mid-March the Knicks were 29-34 and held the 8th and final playoff spot. Isiah Thomas was given a contract extension as was safe for another year.

However, the team floundered down the stretch. After re-signing Thomas, the Knicks would win only 4 of it’s last 15 games and ended up in 11th place in the East. All in all were 33 wins disappointing? It depends on your expectations. Of the 79 teams in NBA history that had a winning percentage equal to or worse than the 2006 Knicks 23 win team, only 19 of them won 33 or more games the next season. The average improvement of those 79 teams was 8.7 wins, something the 2007 Knicks exceeded. Given those expectations, it’s hard to say Isiah Thomas did a bad job as coach of the Knicks.

However it’s hard to argue that he did a superlative job. Isiah’s main flaws:

  • Allocation of minutes. I’m sure just about every fan quibbles with the substitutions of a coach. In fact I’d be shocked to hear that for each non-playoff team there exists one fan that agrees 100% with the minutes doled out. Nonetheless Isiah Thomas made a few poor decisions along the way. I’ll start by saying that perhaps David Lee’s playing time wasn’t the worst of them. Sure he was the best player on the team, but Thomas still found 30 minutes a night for him. Instead of quibbling over 5 minutes a night for a second year player that came from nowhere, I’d rather concentrate on more heinous crimes.

    Like giving 1307 minutes to Jared Jeffries. Isiah acquired Jeffries with the mid-level exception, and to say Thomas has made bad decisions with the mid-level is like saying Barry Bonds has hit a few home runs. Jeffries followed Vin Baker and Jerome James as free agent strike outs by Isiah. Despite Jeffries’ total ineptitude, Isiah called his number for 23.8 minutes a game. Sitting on the bench behind Jeffries was a superior player in Renaldo Balkman. And Isiah Thomas could have, for lack of a better term, bitch-slapped his draft day detractors by letting Balkman shine in extended minutes.

    But Jeffries wasn’t the only crime. Thomas gave 11 starts to last year’s mid-level exemption Jerome James in order to kickstart the Knicks defense. This was maybe the oddest decision of Isiah’s coaching tenure. Thomas allowed James to play a handful of minutes, only to banish him to the bench for the rest of the game, never to return. Although some of this was done with Lee injured, Thomas had better options to improve the New York defense (Cato, Balkman, Collins, etc.) Hopefully the fine summer league play of Balkman and Morris will mean the end of meaningful minutes to both Jeffries and James.

  • Player development. The only Knick to improve in 2006 under Larry Brown was Jamal Crawford. Brown contained Crawford’s untamed offensive game, and got him to play smarter basketball. With Brown’s tutelage, Crawford attempted fewer wild shots from the perimeter, and drove to the hoop more often. Unfortunately it seems that Isiah Thomas undid most if not all of Brown’s good work. Last year Crawford reverted to his old self: unnecessarily heaving up off low percentage shots. Jamal’s shooting percentage plummeted (47.4 to 45.8 eFG%, 54.4 to 51.7 TS%) as Thomas gave him carte blanche to shoot at will.

    Crawford wasn’t the only player to regress under Thomas. Channing Frye had a sparkling rookie campaign, but floundered miserably as a sophomore. It’s hard to believe that Thomas couldn’t find any way to increase the forward’s confidence. Frye was psychologically shaky, often passing up on outside shots that found the bottom of the net just a year ago. It’s hard to say what caused Frye’s slump, but it’s the coach’s job to motivate his players. And in this case Isiah failed.

  • The defense. We’ve spent a lot of time on this blog dissecting the Knicks offense. However the Knicks’ offense was ranked 10th on March 12th (when Thomas’ contract was extended) before a rash of injuries helped to sink the team. On the other hand, the New York defense was ranked a pitiful 27th at that time and they finished 24th by the season’s end. While part of the problem is due to the construction of the team (which is the fault of Isiah Thomas the president), a share of the blame goes to the coach.

    Thomas failed to make the defense better on any level. He failed to make his players defend better. Take for instance Eddy Curry. Instead of teaching him proper defensive fundamentals, Thomas instructed Curry to avoid fouls. Curry’s foul rate was the lowest of his career, and consequently his block rate was halved. On the other end of the roster, the perimeter was still porous. Knick guards had problems keeping opponents from penetrating, exacerbating Curry’s problems.

    Even if Thomas isn’t to blame for the player’s inability to defend, you could fault him for not using better defenders or schemes. Balkman, who shined as a defender his rookie year, saw only 15.6 minutes per game. Cato, who was certainly no worse defensively than any of the other Knicks centers, played less than a hundred minutes on the season. Additionally Isiah fell in love with a small lineup. Just look at Nate Robinson’s top floor units. The second most frequent unit is a three guard alignment, and two others have Jamal Crawford as the small forward. Crawford played 8% of the team’s total minutes at SF, Mardy Collins played 6%. Meanwhile David Lee only spent 5% at SF. Putting out an undersized unit isn’t done to bolster the defense.

Despite these flaws, Thomas did a commendable job last year. With how much of a crapshoot getting a coach is, it’s hard to think that a random coach could have done better. In the NBA the great coaches are few & far in between, and at the bottom there is a rotating door of assistants and college coaches who fail miserably. That the Knicks improved more than the average team in their situation, shows that Thomas did a fair job.

KnickerBlogger?s Grade: C+

2008 Outlook: The Knicks added some bigger players to the roster, so it’s possible that we’ve seen the end of the small lineup. Instead, we could see lots of big lineups. David Lee could see serious playing time at small forward. Renaldo Balkman (6-8), Demetris Nichols (6-8), and Quentin Richardson (6-6) could see time at shooting guard. Isiah could improve the team by playing the Knicks’ better defenders more often. Balkman should see an extra 10 minutes this year. Collins could see some situational duty. With a poor defensive front court in Curry and Randolph, the Knicks might zone it up more next year. On offense, Isiah Thomas will have to work Zach Randolph into the playbook.

Although last year Thomas received an ultimatum to improve, he’s probably under the same sword of Damocles this year. Certainly the bar is raised again, because 33 wins isn’t going to cut it in 2008. Thomas has a lot of questions to answer this upcoming season. How will Zach Randolph fit in with this team? How many minutes will he find for David Lee? Who will play small forward? Will top summer league performers Renaldo Balkman and Nate Robinson get more playing time? How will the rookies fit in to this team? But no matter what the answers to these questions are, Thomas will be forced to improve. It’d be hard to see the Knicks not make the playoffs and Isiah keep his job.

107 comments on “Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Coach Isiah Thomas

  1. Nathan Neal

    First post!

    I agree, Isiah did an alright job. I think this season will be the litmus test. He has tons of talented players, the question is if he as a coach can pull them all together into one cohesive unit.

  2. HOZ THE KNICK

    isiah gets a b plus remember scott layden now you compare the knicks rosters between them two let me know what u guys think?

  3. Sandeep

    Isiah the coach has a lot of difficult decisions to make this upcoming year. I certainly would not want to be managing that team. I hope Thomas does sacrifice his free agent signings in order to play some of the younger, and seemingly more talented players. I feel he must also limit the time Randolph and Curry are one the floor together. Thats a completely diferent topic, though.

  4. Sandeep

    In response to HOZ THE KNICK, it does not matter what players you have on the roster if you are not getting W’s. Considering we haven’t won a playoff game with the roster Isaiah the GM has created, I don’t think Layden was a much worse option. I guess we should be talking about Isaiah the coach anyway.

  5. Mike N

    Excellent post, Mike K. You observe that “Instead of teaching him proper defensive fundamentals, Thomas instructed Curry to avoid fouls. Curry?s foul rate was the lowest of his career, and consequently his block rate was halved.” I think you might have (inadvertently?) hit on a way to solve a number of problems the Knicks face this year, all in one fell swoop. The proposal: IT gives Curry the opposite advice and tells him(over and over) to be much more aggressive on defense this year. Positive results:
    1. Curry blocks/changes more shots and gets more boards on a per-minute basis, which helps the Knicks defense.
    2. Curry gets more fouls, which means his minutes will have to be cut back. With another low-post threat in Randolph, there is now no reason that Curry needs to be on the floor 35 minutes a night for the sake of the Knicks’ offense.
    3. Corresponding to the cut back in Curry’s playing time, there are more minutes for Lee and Morris.

    So we get better D out of Curry, limit his minutes to make room for more effective players like Lee, and take advantage of our newfound frontcourt depth. A positive step towards solving two of the main Knicks issues: defense and allocating minutes.

  6. mase

    Mike N,
    Making Curry more aggressive on defense doesn’t equate to Curry knowing how to play defense, which is Isiah’s job to teach!

    Mike K,
    I think a grade of C+ is generous… #33 wins in an Atlantic division without Pierce or Iverson or Nenad, (Jefferson missed a lot of games too!) He compiled this roster at the expense of rebuilding and we didnt make the playoffs nor did we finish remotely close to .500.

    I’m curious to see what Isiah the Gm gets graded.

  7. Frank O.

    I think overall Mike K. did a fair job grading Isiah. I give Mike K. a B.:)
    I think our front line depth is going to be a key factor. There are a lot of different looks the Knicks can bring to the table, making them tough to defend.
    Continuity will be a real challenge for Isiah.
    But I also think he needs to commit to the young talent, come what may.
    Lee and Balkman need significant minutes. Curry needs to be pushed to play defense since he is no longer the only go to guy.
    The Knicks need to get Crawford playing smarter, and put less pressure on him to do more than he is capable of.
    We also need to develop our other young guards.

    This team could easily be .500, if everyone stays healthy.

  8. jon abbey

    grading Isiah the GM is difficult, as most moves need years to really judge.

    as far as Isiah the coach, though, I wasn’t impressed. I’ve only skimmed most of the above, but did anyone mention how often he ran out of timeouts by the end of a close game, essentially costing us a shot to tie or win? this happened a handful of times if I recall correctly, and even once is too much in the NBA.

  9. Mr. Black

    I think the grade is fair.

    Thomas did some good things well.

    1. Allowing Balkman decent minutes as a rookie (something that never happens under Larry Brown).

    2. Thomas also forged as sense of community between the players. The team really fought hard and played its best basketball in the five games after the brawl with Denver.

    3. Finally, Thomas seemed to get through to Marbury. Marury really tried to play team first basketball and he really tried to improve he defense. I know the results were not there but it should be clear to anyone watching the team that Marbury did make a great effort. I just hope his body can keep up with his new attitude.

    4. Thomas did an excellent job calling end of the game offensive plays. The Knicks almost always got off a good shot and looked prepared at the end of games, but only when a timeout was available to them.

    Thomas did a number of things poorly.

    1. Thomas refused to cut the cord on J4 (James and Jeffries). These two were clearly the least effective Knicks and yet he still allowed them to play. James refuses to condition himself to the point where he can play 6 minutes a night. During that strech in which james started 10-11 games, he would ask out for a blow after three trips down the court. Jeffris was a HUGE dissapoinment made worse by Thomas’ decision to keep letting him play. It was hard to watch his not as advertised defense and morbidund offensive efforts. (Except for Jeffries’ patented low post hook shot. He looks like a light skinned Mutombo when he posts like that. That is one brilliant move.)

    2. Keeping David Lee on the bench. David should have started at SF especially after it was clear that Richardson would not be able to play. Lee is better on offense than Jeffries and better on defense because of the defensive rebounding. Thomas often stated that he need Lee of the bench because no one else brought his intagibles off the pine. I disagree. Balkman was doing that and would have kept doing that. His rebounding alone was as effective as Lee’s. Plus Balkman was great at starting the break, which makes him a natural fit with fleet footed Robinson, Crawford and Marbury.

    3. Excuses, excuses, excuses. Thomas did a poor job getting his team in the right mental state to play. He often talked of “being flat” and “let downs” before games. When he did, the Knicks often did just that. They came out flat, got WAY behind and tried to scrap back into the game. Observant Knick fans will notice repeated stagnant first and third quarter play from this team. I think that is a direct reflection on the motivation skills of the coach. I think Thomas just gave his team an out. Blaming the tough start to the season on the number of games and the number of road trips. I dont buy it. You need to make sure the team is ready to play. You need to stop the bleeding quickly by subbing players.

    Overall, a fair grade. I hope Thomas really cracks the whip this year.

  10. JABBADAHUT

    First of all Isaih the GM did a great job with this team, the only problem was for the first few years he was getting rid of dreck that Layden left behind. He had to make lateral trades in order to relieve us of garbage players and contracts and in return yielded draft picks and potential trade bait. Now we have a YOUNG atheletic team that is learning how to play together so technically Isaih the coach or GM should not start being evaluated until this upcoming season,which technically is season one if you consider the rebuild and the Larry Brown chronicles. My grade a B- with potential to be higher.

  11. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    “4. Thomas did an excellent job calling end of the game offensive plays. The Knicks almost always got off a good shot and looked prepared at the end of games, but only when a timeout was available to them.”

    I have an issue with this one. Thomas was god-awful in end of the game plays. I know I’ve blogged about this throughout the entire season, on multiple occasions.

  12. steve

    Excellent review. This is such a “half empty or half full?” organization at this time that it will be fascinating to see what is going on by
    January with this team. Isiah is so much more in his comfort zone as coach vs. GM. One intangible that is so importiant is that the team truly plays hard for him. Larry Brown was such a horrible experience that this team had nowhere to go but up. It is obvious Isiah has a vision of what he wants to do offensively with everyone, but this team seriously needs a defensive coach, such as Dick Harter (who Indiana hired)to take them to the next level. If they shave 3 to 5 points a game off their points allowed and play a little better perimeter D, they make the playoffs. A shot blocker wouldn’t hurt either.
    I give Jeffries a pass due to missing training camp and the fight suspension after he came back. He just didn’t have confidence in himself, and teammates didn’t have any in him. This is a very deep team, and now with Randolph, Isiah has even more personnel decisions on a night to night basis. I think barring a major trade, this lineup will change liberally depending on the matchups at the end of the game. I for one think that major trade is still coming.

  13. Frank O.

    Has anyone heard any intelligence on what moves if any the Knicks are considering?
    I’m sort of starving for information on this.
    It’s obvious the Knicks need to make a move for not other reason but that they have too many players…

  14. brian quinnett's left nipple

    i actually think that isiah did a rather good job coaching this year. the team played hard (although they did not play smart), and balkman, marbury and lee both progressed (although crawford did not).

    i never really felt that the knicks were outcoached on a nightly basis.

    but i think that has less to do with isiah and much to do with the complete idiocy of coaches nowadays. there’s just not many out there that are heads and shoulders above the rest.

    popovich. phil. d’antoni.

    the rest lack in innovation, flexibility and are just uninspiring, don’t you think?

  15. Frank O.

    Fascinating that this has generated only 21 responses so far. After the firestorm that went down on Nate’s review, I guess everyone is spent.

  16. Z

    I actually think Isiah did okay as coach, if you abstract his one season as coach and pretend he wasn’t GM. (I think it’s too bad that such a qualifier needs to be placed on a compliment.) All-in-all, though, I think Isiah is the right guy to coach this particular squad, and I’m not sure if anyone else could have done more with them last year than Isiah did. Like in the GM discussion, we’ll never know what could have been.

    I agree with the left nipple of Mr. Quinnett (sure never thought I write a sentence like that in my life…). There is a scarcity of A list coaches right now. In looking back on Isiah’s choices to coach the team, there are a precious few that I are qualified to run an organization like the Knicks. The A list when he took over as GM was really just Brown, Phil, Pop, Sloan, and Riley.

    Brown has obviously slid off the list after his NY episode, and Phil, too, I think has compromised his legacy with his second stint in LA. He helped that dynasty collapse, wrote a tell all book trashing his players, and since returning hasn’t sniffed a title. We all know Jordan made him look great for six rings, and other than 1994 never really has shown anybody that he can win without the best player in the world on his team, and preferably the top two.

    That leaves Pop, who is embedded in SA, Sloan, embedded in Utah, and Riley, too estranged from NY to make amends. Other than them there is a slew of B+ level coaches without much success to speak of.

    Since Isiah believes in this roster more than anyone, it only makes sense to let him win or lose with it on the floor. No more excuses, though. It’s time to stand center court in April and say “welcome back to the playoffs NY”. Again.

  17. Gabe

    The pepperoni two spots above me has a point. In absolute terms, Isiah can best be described as “modestly miserable” by my terms. However, when compared to his peers, my outlook changes to “cautiously optimistic.”

    The problem, as I see it, is thusly. Isiah the GM has a knack for finding talent in the draft. Isiah the coach seems to have a problem with playing said talent for significant minutes to give them the experience they need to flourish.

  18. Z

    It is interesting, though, that Isiah gets a C+, placing him in the higher rankings of the grades awarded (about a C- average). A man who?s job it is to get players to play well gets a C+ while the players he?s supposed to get to play well get a C-. Most of the players on the team saw their grades lowered due to playing below expectation. Seems that the coach is somewhat responsible to see those expectations are met. A few guys playing below expectation is one thing, but according to the other grades on this blog, only 2 guys seemed to play above expectation, leaving everyone else playing below expectation (or with expectation being so low that underperformance is impossible). I’d think the coach’s grade would have to reflect the team grade in this manner…

    Under Thomas the Knicks have been coached by 5 different guys, none for more than 1 year. I do wonder (not to turn this into a discussion on Isiah the GM at all) if Don Chaney could have won 33 games this year if he was left as coach. Lenny? Herb? Larry? I’d have to say probably for all of them (unless Lenny really is to old to compete anymore). I’m not really sure where that leaves Isiah’s evaluation. I guess he has to be a TBD (since he’ll actually be allowed to coach more than 1 year…)

  19. Real Knicks Fan

    Grade: F

    New York Knicks Coach Isiah Thomas and a former team executive who claims he subjected her to unwanted sexual advances appeared in federal court yesterday as jury selection began in her $10 million sexual harassment lawsuit.

  20. birchnbrook

    Wow, there is some seriouis delusion here. Perhaps being close to 40, I recall the days of my youth thinking, believing – nay, KNOWING – that Bernard King, Truck, Rory Sparrow and Invisi-Bill could actually beat the Bird, McHale, Parish Celtics. Bernard eats Tripucka’s lunch in the early rounds, but just can’t get past Plastic Man McHale’s inhumanly long wing span – those turnaround J’s were from a bit out of his “automatic” range. In any event – the hope of youth is what I speak of.

    Speaking of which – Isiah can actually coach a tad. He is a much better coach than GM, which is only saying that as a GM, he is utterly horrendous. Complete F for a grade, both as coach and GM though. Reasons:

    1. How many times did we have to see our heroes go down by 25, only to mount a furious come back, only to fall short in the end?

    2. How many times did we see Crawford pull out a ridiculous end of game circus shot to win a game? Those should have been losses, yet count towards the 33 wins too.

    3. If I see one more Eddy Curry “spin into my man and hope to get a call” shot, rather than actually trying to make a real low-post, back to the basket move, well….. I don’t know what I’ll do other than once more scream at the tv.

    4. I will give Isiah some credit – Stephon had a terrific year. His stats might not show it, but he was the undisputed leader on the court. The Incredible Sulk might be poison off the court and in the locker room, but on the court, he did the job. If QRich had stayed healthy, the beloved K’s might have won a few more, if only because “I am 6’11″ and play like a soft shooting guard with no jump shot” Jeffries was forced into more time than he deserved. But an F doesn’t mean you did nothing right – it just means you didn’t get enough right.

    5. And what is with the David Lee love-fest? Ok, the guy has a motor that doesn’t quit, and has a goofy smile. But his offensive game is just north of Balkman’s, and their skills are duplicative. Why are the both on the team again? Sorry, my Isiah the GM criticism just bled over into my Isiah the coach criticism.

    6. What Isiah really needs to do this year is start Randolph and Lee next to each other, and let Curry come off the bench to be the designated scorer off the bench for the 2nd unit, to play 25-30 mins. But Isiah the coach won’t do that, because Isiah the GM declared Eddy to be the 2nd coming.

    7. Getting back to his grade of last year – others have made this point, but JJ and JJ deserved zero time on the court, because they just didn’t deserve it. Can you imagine if the coach benched Isiah the GM’s prized off season acquisitions? Do we see a pattern here?

    So let’s sum up the coaching job – bad distribution of minutes, bad start of game management because they go down by 25 often, bad end of game tactical management, and a record of 33 wins. HOw is this anything other than an “F”?

  21. Owen

    I think the main points have been hit here. Isaiah is not a great coach, he gave too many shots to Crawford, a few too few minutes to Lee maybe, but he was at least a mediocre coach. And I do think the team played hard all year, and I give him credit for that.

    But coaches are, in my mind, not all that important. They matter a bit, 5-10% maybe, but basically how good the players are is what matters the most. And I don’t think on that score Isaiah the coach could make up that much for Isaiah and perhaps Layden the Gm’s.

    Also, if Lee hadn’t emerged last year, I think It’s would never have received an extension, and probably wouldn’t be coaching this year.

    Birchnbrook -

    David Lee – TS% of 65% = #3 in the NBA, 4.5 offensive rebounds per 40, and made the Knicks 8.9 points better when he was out there on offense.

    Perhaps we need a David Lee FAQ, someone else could write it, and I will compose the poetry to go beneath, I am think maybe something in the style of Homer would work, the Greek poet that is…

  22. Z

    “Thomas was god-awful in end of the game plays.”

    Lenny had a play that used to work. Hardaway would lob to Nazr for a game winning alley-oop. It worked twice. Those were the good old days…

    …Before a last second play was Jamal launching an off-balance 3 as chaos ensued…

    Or Curry for that matter…

  23. JABBADAHUT

    Im not sure what yall problem is since when was it a problem to have to many good players. Everyone is not going to play regardless of what some posters think. Barring any trades the lineup will be Steph,Crawford,Q,Randolph and Curry first off the bench Mardy,Jeffries,Balkman and Lee that essentially is our lineup barring injury and we have a slew of youngins waiting in the wing for thier turn. this is a very deep team and if we pace ourself and play 2 styles maybe uptempo with N8,Balkman,Lee and Mardy as the catalyst and then slow it down with Steph,Crawford,Randolph and Curry we could collect those W’s while keeping everybody fresh for the longhaul.

  24. Mr. Black

    Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Said:
    September 10th, 2007 at 11:10 am
    ?I?m curious to see what Isiah the Gm gets graded.?

    I won?t be grading Isiah the GM, Dolan the Owner, or Knicker the Blogger. Sorry folks the grading ends here. :-)

    Mike K. I think you should give an overall Knick grade. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Said:
    September 10th, 2007 at 1:42 pm
    ?4. Thomas did an excellent job calling end of the game offensive plays. The Knicks almost always got off a good shot and looked prepared at the end of games, but only when a timeout was available to them.?

    I have an issue with this one. Thomas was god-awful in end of the game plays. I know I?ve blogged about this throughout the entire season, on multiple occasions

    Mike. K Let me clear this up. I Thomas did a good job on the OFFENSIVE end at the end of games coming out of a time out. I know the desired effect was not always there but the team did manage to get off good shots more often than not. I do think the DEFENSE was horrid at the end of games. Also, you cant blame Thomas for designing a good play and having it executed poorly. I simply do not believe that Thomas instructed his players to “Give the ball to Jamal and lets see what he does.” Thomas designed the game winners against the Bobcats, Bucks, and Detriot. Those last second losses to NJ and Washington were defensive lapses not offensive.

    Even M Breen and Frazier stated the same this season.

  25. Mr. Black

    Also, if you count time out management as part of end of game management, then i would tend to agree that Thomas has some work to do. Too often we did not have a time to design a play. So maybe, just maybe you were right this time Mike K.

    Maybe.

    Just this ONE time.

    Maybe.

  26. Ted Nelson

    “Also, you cant blame Thomas for designing a good play and having it executed poorly. I simply do not believe that Thomas instructed his players to ?Give the ball to Jamal and lets see what he does.? ”

    Most times the Knicks had the last possession of a quarter 4 guys stood by the sidelines, Jamal dribbled around, then Jamal took a contested 3 with a hand in his face. If this wasn’t by design then Jamal must be very good at convincing other people to do what he wants.
    I’m not sure what percentage of last possessions of the game this happened on, there were tip ins and Cury 3s also drawn up at the end of games, but I remember it happening enirely too often.

  27. Sly Williams

    The C+ grade for Thomas is overly generous. All things considered, 41 wins would be a C, and the Knicks won only 33, and they do not appear to be rebuilding. If the grade is influenced by player quality, then Thomas again is to blame, as he put the team together. If you compare the season to prior seasons, then again Thomas was the cause. He hired Larry Brown, and when Brown tried to force his system down the players throats (as he always had when he met with resistance) it was Thomas who supported the players’ rejection of Brown’s system. In any grading system that accounts for team quality, Thomas gets an F.

  28. Mr. Black

    Jamal’s off balance threes. Yeah, i saw him do that about five times this year. Three of them in the same game Knicks v. Charlotte.

    Do any of you recall the David Lee tip in with 0.1 to play?

    How about Channing Frye’s last second shot to extend the game against Detriot?

    You people keep disagreeing but noone will give an solid example to the contrary. Give me a game where Thomas called a horrible last second/ game winner!
    Eddy Curry’s tip against the lakers, the three against the Bucks, the put back against Charlotte?

    Please tell me that those did’nt happen after a time out and play designed by Thomas?

    The Knicks were 6-2 in OT last year. Explain how you get to OT and win in OT without well drawn last minute plays?

  29. Z

    “Do any of you recall the David Lee tip in with 0.1 to play?”

    Does Isiah get credit for that? If he drew it up that way he designed a very low percentage shot. 90% of the time that doesn’t go in. Lee made a circus shot.

    “the three against the Bucks”

    Did Isiah draw up a 3 for Curry? Had he ever even shot a 3 before that one? The fact that he got lucky and hit a 0% shot is not really a credit to the coach. (I think I’d rather have Crawford jacking one up off balance– at least he’s hit those before).

    Basically, I think the coach gets too much credit/blame for last second plays. It all comes down to luck. Perfect execution is on the players, and a coach can’t control for another team’s defense. I think the coach can give the team the chance to get lucky in the closing seconds by making sure there is a time out to inbound at half court. Other than that a coach’s job is to rotate minutes, devise a game plan, keep the team on the same page, manage egos, deal with the media, etc…. Of those things, Isiah did an adequate job.

  30. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    This is what I could dig up in 60 seconds…

    http://www.knickerblogger.net/2007/03/28/cavs-93-knicks-97/

    I?d like to write a program so that when I hit a key combination (CTRL-ALT-F1, for example) it spits out the sentence: ?I?ve said it before and I?ll say it again, the Knicks need to work on their last second plays.? This is the lineup Isiah had in for the final shot: Marbury, Jeffries, Rose, Frye, Curry. And Isiah subbed in Jeffries specifically for that play. Why put in a defensive specialist with a career PPG of 6.1 for the last play when you have the ball? In fact, why have two of them (Rose)? Again there seemed to be no play, just a ?you guys improvise out there? talk from Isiah. Luckily Marbury hits the three pointer, and this is all just a cranky blogger nit picking. But this situation bites them on the ass so many times.

    http://www.knickerblogger.net/2007/03/27/orlando-94-new-york-89/

    I?ve said it before and I?ll say it again, the Knicks need to work on their last second plays. They were down by 3 with 20 seconds, and you have 2 options in that scenario. The first is to get a quick unguarded layup, then quickly foul. The second is to shoot a three. What do the Knicks do? Dribble the ball for half the shot clock looking for an opening, then have the layup blocked to clinch the loss. They looked like a playground team that had stepped on the court together for the first time.

  31. jon abbey

    to be fair, Isiah does have two of the worst decision makers in history playing guard for him, so it can’t be easy planning successful last minute plays. once the defense takes away the first option (which they often can), it’s usually on the guards to figure out the best remaining choice, and Steph and Jamal are generally pretty incapable of that.

    the running out of time outs thing is inexcusable, he’d better not do that this year without a damn good reason.

  32. retropkid

    Zeke the coach wouldn’t have been hired if Zeke the GM wasn’t already in place…the two are inextricably linked. And Zeke the GM was bad…real bad.

    The New York Knick fan base that supports Zeke is guilty of lowered expectations. And in lowering your expectations, Zeke earns an A…nobody is better at lowering expectations so he can exceed them than Zeke.

    To say 33 wins is a good performance because it was better than the horrid year before it is specious.

    Zeke didn’t win…and didn’t win in crunch time (yeah yeah, injuries injuries…he didn’t win, enough said). 11th place in the tepid East, down there with the Bobcats, is flaccid. You have to be good at self-delusion and Kool-Aid sipping to like that result.

    The 2006 Knicks had a bunch of likable players, which is why the fan base is so malleable about Zeke imho…we don’t want to disparage them, guys like Lee and Balkman and Collins are likable fellows.

    Ultimately Zeke and Marbury and Dolan — the leaders — lack character — that will be the legacy of this generation of Knick teams…and for long-time Knick fans of Willis, Clyde, Bradley, Dave D., Red Holzman, etc. that is the greatest failing of this breed of leadership — with Zeke in the middle of it.

    Zeke took us backwards….33 wins is bad. Grade:F…and I hope he doesn’t get to complete the course in 2007.

  33. birchnbrook

    retropkid just said it all: “Ultimately Zeke and Marbury and Dolan ? the leaders ? lack character ? that will be the legacy of this generation of Knick teams.” There it is – the beginning and the end of it.

    I couldn’t have said it better, and wish I said it first.

  34. Brian Cronin

    Oh man, remember the game against the Magic late in the season when Nate, with the Knicks down three, just dribbled aimlessly, then threw up some ugly shot at the rim?

    He neither

    A. Hurried the ball, as time was running down, which is what you’d do if you were going for two

    nor

    B. Shot the three, which is also what you would do if you decided to not hurry the ball, with time running down.

  35. Z

    “remember the game against the Magic late in the season when Nate, with the Knicks down three, just dribbled aimlessly, then threw up some ugly shot at the rim?”

    Yeah– that must have been the one KB referenced earlier. It was the hardest loss of the year to stomach. The team was still clinging to its playoff chances. Orlando was the team we were trying to displace for 8th seed. Knicks were up with less than two minutes. Hideo Turkoglu took the game over. Crushing…

  36. Mr. Black

    Mike K.

    Cavs game: Fair enough. I didnt pay close attention to the Cavs game because we won.

    Mike K. You are not being fair about the 3/26 orlando game. You disagree with Thomas for having Rose and Jeffries on the floor. Normally, I would disagree with that lineup too. However, Crawford and Richardson were not available due to injury. Nate Robinson had not played well that evening, ditto Francis, and we all know Collins isnt likely to drop the three. I think, given the players available, Thomas had to be thinking about offense rebounding, hence Rose and Jeffries on offense. Lee was out so he couldnt very well use him. Maybe the plan was to drive and draw contact or dish to an open player for a three. I actually thought Robinson got fouled, but hey, I am a T.B.I.T.A, Totally Biased Isiah Thomas Apologist, and proud of it.

    I will say that I appreciate having a forum for this kind of discussion. Thanks for the intersting opinions.

  37. JK47

    And now the Zeke sexual harassment trial starts, providing us a further glimpse into our GM/Coach’s soul:

    “Browne Sanders said Thomas bristled at her efforts to get players to turn out for corporate events scheduled long before he took over the team in December 2003. “Bitch, I don’t give a [expletive] about the sponsors …” Browne Sanders testified Thomas told her. “I don’t give a [expletive] about ticket sales.”

    Nice. Here’s another tidbit:

    “She also said Thomas rebuffed her March 2004 request that he sign renewal-request letters sent out to past season ticket holders with a pointed shot at loyal Knick fans. “Bitch, I don’t give a [expletive] about these white people,” Browne Sanders said Thomas told her.”

    Nice. Isiah is a piece of crap, a truly disingenuous fraud of a human being. “F” is too good a grade this assbag, who is easily one of the worst GMs in NBA history and who has turned our franchise into a big goddamned joke. And he’s not leaving anytime soon, so loyal fans like us can expect many more years of humiliation.

    He’s a joke. The whole situation is completely farcical and depressing. Wake up, Knicks fans: we’ll never win anything as long as he’s here.

  38. Brian Cronin

    We are not members of the jury, so we do not have to abide by “innocent until proven guilty.” We are completely free to presume someone is guilty until proven innocent.

    With that being said, come on, guys, this is the testimony of someone who is SUING him for ten million dollars! We can’t just accept what she says as fact.

    She very well could be telling the truth, but she also very well could not be telling the truth.

  39. retropkid

    Doesn’t Zeke also have a son out of wedlock that he has chosen to ignore, both financially and in terms of a personal relationship?

    How much more “innocence” do you want to apply to Zeke before you finally admit he is a bad character? And a bad executive, and a bad coach….but hey, he was a great player!!! Wow! And so what!!!

    And Marbury is sleeping with an intern??? And Marbury’s cousin was given a job and fired for sexual harassment? What an environment?? How could you not want to root for these quality human beings???

    If these guys were wearing Celtic uniforms, I would LOVE all this!!! But they are Knicks….sadly….

    What was once a classy franchise has become a set of boorish, selfish frauds…

  40. Caleb

    “Doesn?t Zeke also have a son out of wedlock that he has chosen to ignore, both financially and in terms of a personal relationship?”

    The NY Post headlined it “Zeke’s Gay Son!” or something like that, when they found an interviewed him.

    If I remember right, IT had been paying child support all along but had never been part of the guy’s life. I think this son was about age 20, didn’t like Isiah, was an aspiring filmmaker and was photographed outside his mom’s house hanging out smoking a cigarette.

  41. Jerry

    “What was once a classy franchise has become a set of boorish, selfish frauds? ”

    Right. They need to change coaches and get rid of that piece of garbage Marbury before I can truly support this team again.

  42. jon abbey

    yeah, because the rest of the league is filled with saints and virgins.

    not that I have any interest whatsoever in debating this, but if someone can tell me what the huge problem is with consensual sex with an intern in this case, I’d sure like to hear it.

  43. Z

    “What was once a classy franchise has become a set of boorish, selfish frauds?”

    To abandon the Knicks now because of the revelation that there are assholes in the organization is probably na?ve to just how un?classy? the Knicks, or as Jon points out, any other franchise in the league is, or has been.

    I don’t think we can say this team is really any worse than other eras the franchise has had. The ’90s certainly had their share of guys that had personal issues (Mason, Ewing, Starks, Kurt Thomas, Sprewell, Larry Johnson, etc…) And that’s just the stuff that went public. Most cases of abusive behavior don?t make the front page of the paper. (The 1970s didn?t even know what sexual harassment was. If we went back in time, I?m sure we?d see cases in the Knick locker rooms so egregious that even Ron Burgundy would blush).

    Dolan, for a spell, tried to build a team in which character mattered. He hired Layden, a man of extremely high character and integrity, and a god-awful GM. Maybe I?m morally compromised, but I think I can honestly say I?d rather the Knicks win than lose. Integrity is just an impossible dream. More than Isiah not act like a ?scumbag?, I wish he?d not act like a crappy GM.

    If I had to guess, if we really got to know intimately any of the athletes we root for we probably wouldn’t like too many of them (except of course for David Lee, Owen!). When we get to see their private life, too often they come across as abusive and entitled jerks. Maybe I’m cynical, or I?ve been jaded by seeing so many public figures exposed as, well, not so nice, for so long, but I kind of feel safest assuming all these guys act like Isiah, Marbury, Mills, et al., and when they don?t I can be extra happy for them when they succeed on the court.

    Either that or wallow is blissful ignorance…

  44. jon abbey

    Dolan is the root of the problem, not Isiah. the Red Sox didn’t turn it around as an organization until Henry took over and revamped almost everything, same here. nothing fundamentally will change while he is the owner.

  45. Oakley

    Marbury having s#x in public is the huge problem. Also, having sex or trying to date a coworker can lead to s#xual harrassment as Isiah is finding out. Dolan is the big problem, too. I agree. He will sell if somebody gives him a big enough offer.

  46. Donal Trump

    “Dolan is the root of the problem, not Isiah.”

    Reading articles today about the case I have to agree. Ownership and management are an embarresment and the rest of the league has to look at us and think that we’re complete chumps.

    Question…what happens to the season if IT is found guilty of harassment? Does Dolan pull a Robert Kraft and give him an extension?

  47. Domencio

    We haven’t got all the facts yet? LOL. The fact is by HIS (Isiah) video testimony, he is a racist and a sexist, he has double standards for what white men and black men can say, and is no different than a David Duke (KKK).

  48. Darth

    You know what I’d do? Fire Thomas now, and yes Dolan don’t mind spending money so to fix it I’d draw up a 4-year contract to Jeff Van Gundy with a blank check.

    Marbury? WOW, you’d think the sneaker people could translate being a dumbf#ck could result in a drop in sneaker sales.

  49. Donal Trump

    It’s weird how much coverage this suit is getting but it’s not a topic on Knickerblogger. On a scale of one to 10….

    * How will a victory for the plaintiff affect the season?

    * How will a victory for Thomas affect the season?

  50. jon abbey

    “I?d draw up a 4-year contract to Jeff Van Gundy with a blank check.”

    um, no. he couldn’t get out of the first round with both Yao and McGrady, I’ll pass, thanks.

  51. xduckshoex

    Van Gundy is one of those guys who is a fantastic assistant but doesn’t seem to have what it takes as a head coach.

  52. Matthew

    I disagree. Van Gundy seems to get it; that winning games is about efficiency, not trying to attempt more shots than your opponent. Although he’s not the guy I’d pick to write up an out-of-bounds play, he’s generally quite good at the macro controlling the team type things. But then again, I don’t think coaching is very important anyways, and I’d be fine with hiring an unknown on the cheap.

  53. xduckshoex

    Van Gundy is great on defense and does an excellent job preparing his team for big games, but he has to be one of the worst offensive coaches ever. He has had average offensive teams twice in his coaching career, and both were with the Rockets. So to have even an average offensive team, he needs one of the best one-two punches in recent memory.

  54. Mark

    Van Gundy was a good coach. He took the Knicks to the playoffs in each of his first six seasons, including a trip to the 1999 NBA Finals when we were the bottom seed (first team in history to do this) and two trips to the Eastern Conference finals.

  55. Mark

    Donald, They’re worse than the MSG network at times. Who the hec wants to talk about stats when all of this is going on? I don’t know how this case will ultimately affect the season, but I hope they get rid of some of these shady characters. We are not winning a championship with Thomas and Marbury.

  56. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    “It?s weird how much coverage this suit is getting but it?s not a topic on Knickerblogger.”

    I just don’t see what this has to do with the season. It’s different if Isiah/Marbury is suspended or worse. But until then it all just speculation. If this wasn’t a sex scandal and was an accounting scandal then I don’t think it’d be getting a quarter of the attention the media is giving it. What can I say, I’m not a rubbernecker.

  57. retropkid

    Mike, it’s more than a sex scandal when the coach says black men can call black women bitches but white men cannot…sounds like racism to me, quite a serious issue, no?

    And sex scandals with an intern are really power scandals…it’s not the sex, it’s the abuse of authority and lack of over-sight. I don’t know how the court case will go, but these guys tarnish the legacy of proud NY basketball.

    Doesn’t take a rubbernecker to be unhappy with the state of the state. These guys are not MY NY Knicks…they are Dolan’s cast of clowns…I will be rooting against this group of punks, hoping Dolan finally pulls the plug on Zeke and Marbury…just wish he would pull the plug on himself too, but know I have to accept one step at a time towards become a team worth my loyalty.

  58. DS

    What Isiah said is not racist. Ideally, he would have condemned the idea of calling women “bitches” under any circumstance.

    What he said is that he has more of a problem with white men calling women “bitches” than black men calling women “bitches” – probably due to the possibly racist element. Not a smart thing to say but it also doesn’t warrant the multiple columns I’ve seen published this week.

  59. DS

    I should clarify; white men calling BLACK women “bitches” vs. black men calling black women “bitches.”

  60. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    “sounds like racism to me, quite a serious issue, no?”

    Sorry, no. I’m sure that in sports the majority of the participants have different views than I on race, sex, politics, education, economics, religion, overpopulation, capital punishment, global warming, atomic energy, and the role of statistical analysis in sports. These people are put on this stage/pedestal because of their physical ability, not their intelligence. I try to take sports for what it is, entertainment, and leave it at that.

  61. Donal Trump

    Mike K., this is sports blog correct… so “speculation” is encouraged? Don’t think it’s rubbernecking when it’s on the front pages every day (buy mysteriously absent from Knickerblogger).

    If he’s found guilty it will be fascinating to watch what happens and I, for one, would like to know what your readers and posters think about that.

    DS, I buy your rationalization that it’s more of a problem when a white man calls a black woman bitch. However, there were other racist comments attributed to IT and so vindicating him on this one does not clear his record.

  62. xduckshoex

    “DS, I buy your rationalization that it?s more of a problem when a white man calls a black woman bitch. However, there were other racist comments attributed to IT and so vindicating him on this one does not clear his record.”

    …but how credible is the source?

    I would LOVE to get rid of Thomas and see no way that management could justify keeping him on board if he really did say what that woman claims he said…but a lot of what she claims seems to be contradicted by the testimony of other witnesses in the trial, so I don’t see any reason to believe that her account of Thomas’ remarks regarding the season ticket holders is accurate.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if it was true, but as of now I don’t buy it.

  63. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    “Don?t think it?s rubbernecking when it?s on the front pages every day…”

    Rubbernecking accidents are exactly the kind that make the front pages every day. That’s why I stopped reading the papers & started this blog.

  64. Donal Trump

    duckshoe…who ya gonna trust, the gal that screwed Marbury’s cousin, then screwed Marbury, then told the VP of Mktg about it, then sent her a note thanking her for her support, then took a promotion from the Knicks, then six weeks later said the VP of Mktg was a liar….or, the VP of Mktg who got sterliing job reviews year after year until Zeke showed up and hit on her. Agree that this thing is a toss up but would anyone on this board want their daughter to work at MSG?

    Mike, let’s all just pretend that there isn’t a two-week long string on a topic you’ve decided not to recognize because you are the arbiter of what people on this blog are interested in.

  65. jon abbey

    in other riveting news, the National Enquirer reports that Rachel Ray is getting divorced and didn’t sign a pre-nuptial (my mom told me this earlier today).

    PLEASE MAKE THE SEASON START SOON. thank you.

  66. xduckshoex

    “duckshoe?who ya gonna trust, the gal that screwed Marbury?s cousin, then screwed Marbury, then told the VP of Mktg about it, then sent her a note thanking her for her support, then took a promotion from the Knicks, then six weeks later said the VP of Mktg was a liar?.or, the VP of Mktg who got sterliing job reviews year after year until Zeke showed up and hit on her. Agree that this thing is a toss up but would anyone on this board want their daughter to work at MSG?”

    Since neither side seems credible in my eyes, I just try to ignore the whole thing.

  67. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, even as a lawyer, there really isn’t anything for me to say about this case. There’s really not much to it.

    Person A says “X” happened. Person B says “X” didn’t happen.

    The jury will listen to both sides, and determine who they believe more.

    There’s really nothing for us to say about it.

    Except, as I’ve already mentioned before, that it seems folly to automatically assume everything said about Thomas by the person who is suing him for millions of dollars is true.

  68. Donald Trump

    Brian, while the testimony has been titillating, the case really is no surprise and is a coing flip. Why Dolan et al would let this go to court rather than settle and avoid the headlines is beyond me.

    What I care about, though, is the season. And, a guilty verdict on the eve of camp opening I think will dramatically effect the campaign. But we’re not going to talk about that here so I’ll go back to my knitting.

    Mike K., thanks for the bitch slap but it’s certainly being covered substantively in other blogs.

  69. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, Donald, if I thought there was really some insight I could give, I’d definitely have written something on it. I even sat down to write a piece awhile back, and realized that I really didn’t have anything of note to add. It’s basically just “Hey guys, hear what X claims Isiah did today!”

  70. Knicks Fan

    For the Garden, however, the most compelling evidence remains the glowing reviews and six-figure bonuses Browne Sanders received during her final years on the job. There is little written evidence documenting any deficiencies. Should the jury be unmoved by the slew of character assassinators the Garden sent to the stand, the paperwork — which is a clear indicator of positive job approval — may prove to be the Garden’s downfall.

  71. Donald Trump

    Brian Cronin….you’re a barrister…good news or bad news for Dolan/Thomas that the deliberating jury asked to see a bunch of the evidence?

  72. K Dog

    Thomas is not a good coach. Period. What this trial has proved is that there is a sort of anything goes attitude at the Garden right now. The 2000 – now Knicks are a sham. They spend cash like other NY teams but they do not deliver. At least the Yankees are always there, in the playoffs etc. The Knicks are one of those teams that overpay for overrated talent. They are constantly at the cap paying for some player that is no longer in the league! Look at the current roster. Look at what Jerome James makes. Look what Jeffries makes. Remember when Frye was ‘untouchable’? What a joke. Marbury…he wasn’t worth getting either. This roster makes me want not want to watch basketball.

  73. K Dog

    “good news or bad news for Dolan/Thomas that the deliberating jury asked to see a bunch of the evidence?”

    Possible good news for real Knicks fans. The jury note could indicate some unanimity on the hostile environment claim.

  74. Tom

    Isiah Thomas

    the only job this this guy should have is cleaning up the place after games. This man went to college and he still has IQ of a high school freshmen at best. And Marbury, forget this guy, he couldn’t even complete the application it would take to hire him on a cleaning crew. I guess this is why the NBA fan base has been shrinking year after year.

  75. Oakley

    Guilty as charged! Thomas has got to go! Then Marburry is next. He says he doesn’t care about a ring! Unbelieveable.

  76. Donald Trump

    What will Stern do? Will the Knicks open the season with Thomas actively coaching?

    ( as I’ve previously posted…it’s completely bizarre to me that a Knicks blog would completely ignore what is arguably the largest potential impact on the season…when new topics have been posted the last few days it reminds me of Saddam Hussein’s spokespersons’ press conferences in Baghdad when he was saying that Iraq had the upper hand while American tanks could be seen in the background)

  77. Oakley

    How can anyone root for this team? Marbury says he doesn’t care about a ring. Thomas doesn’t care about the ticket holders. What a couple of schmucks.

  78. Dave M.

    I know you have heard the news today about the NY Knicks and Isiah Thomas. How long will you avoid this topic, Knicks blog?

  79. Donald Trump

    Just read that the jury awarded $11.6 million to browne-saunders….also read a statement from the NBA that they have no policies on civil litigation…and Knickerblogger silently studies its stats for a 3,000 word posting on offensive rebounds by power forwards with one leg shorter than the other while the biggest story in sports doesn’t get its own topic….Mike, did you get your editorial start at TASS or Pravda?

  80. Brian Cronin

    Brian Cronin?.you?re a barrister?good news or bad news for Dolan/Thomas that the deliberating jury asked to see a bunch of the evidence?

    Heh, didn’t get a chance to respond to that before we got the answer ourselves, via the result. :)

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