At 4am this morning Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski published an article speculating that Isiah Thomas was pulling the strings on the Carmelo Anthony deal.
The thin veil of secrecy has torn away now, the pretenses gone and Isiah Thomas has left the shadows and moved into the light again. Once more, he is the New York Knicks’ top basketball executive.
Thomas is driving everything through owner James Dolan – the trade for Carmelo Anthony(notes), the departure of Donnie Walsh and perhaps even the eventual hiring of the New York Knicks’ next president and general manager, multiple league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
“Isiah is calling the shots for New York,” said one front-office executive with knowledge of the Anthony trade talks. “It’s a disgrace. Donnie should walk.”
A few hours later, KnickerBlogger writer Kevin McElroy asked me if we should cover the story. I declined, because I felt Wojnarowski’s piece was more rumor and opinion than fact.
Look at the above quote, which is how the article starts. Wojnarowski uses strong and clear language stating that Isiah Thomas “is the New York Knicks’ top basketball executive.” However what does he give to back-up such statement? Proof by way of payment from the team to Isiah? No. Proof by way of emails or other intercepted communication? No. Photographs? Nope. What does he back it with? The statement of an anonymous supposed front office executive. Short of reality shows and teenagers, most people know to ignore such evidence. If Wojnarowski named the exec, then we can deem it valid. For instance what if you found out that the executive was someone from the Nets front office? Wouldn’t you think this is a perfect lie to tell in order to get Knick fans to jump ship once the Nets arrive in New Jersey? There’s a reason that hearsay isn’t valid in a court of law.
Wojnarowski’s article was evocative, but lacked the substance to back it up. And without any kind of evidence I thought I’d treat it as rumor and left it alone. However the Knicks have supposedly issued a statement to contradict Wojnarowski’s article:
“We want to make it abundantly clear that we have been in constant communication throughout this process and the three of us are in complete agreement with everything that we are currently working on. Together, we will do what is best for the long-term success of the franchise,” said the statement, which was attributed to Dolan, Walsh and coach Mike D’Antoni.
I don’t see the statement on the team’s web page, nor did I receive any emails on it. (I’ve reached out to the team to ask them if this is true). In any case, while I’d hate to squash the out of the box thinking of skeptics, I don’t see any reason to believe that Isiah is running the team, and the evidence is all on my side.
The first reason is that the Knicks have not done any Isiah-type moves since Donnie has taken over. If Isiah is truly running the team, as Wojnarowski proposes, there would be previous evidence of such tampering. Secondly it wouldn’t be uncommon for Donnie Walsh to up his proposal or take a bigger risk. I offer last year’s trade with Houston as one where Walsh threw in a chip too many in order to try and get a big star. Third, it’s quite common for owners to make decisions about their team. Just look at the New Jersey Nets Prokhorov who has been involved in his franchise’s handling of Carmelo Anthony. George Steinbrenner made his name by sticking his nose in the Yankees front office business.
Finally it just doesn’t make sense that a previous GM would be making moves on the side. Isiah Thomas isn’t banished from the team. Dolan is free to hire him at any time he chooses. I can’t think of any examples of this occurring. Guys like Matt Millen and Kevin McHale usually stay at their job way past they’re supposed to. Owners of these teams don’t care about their fans, or at least they value their own judgment more. In other words, they aren’t ashamed to stick with their man no matter what the fan base and media thinks.
So is it reasonable to think that Walsh is taking a bigger risk? Yes. It might be a small leap to say that Dolan is getting directly involved with the front office. But going from that to saying Isiah is in charge of the front office is a Evel Knievel Canyon-esque type leap.
[EDIT: I just received this from the Knicks Public Relations Department.]
The following is a joint statement from Executive Chairman, Madison Square Garden James L. Dolan, President, Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh and Head Coach Mike D’Antoni:
“We want to make it abundantly clear that we have been in constant communication throughout this process and the three of us are in complete agreement with everything that we are currently working on. Together, we will do what is best for the long-term success of the franchise. In addition, we want to make it clear that no one from outside our organization has been involved in this process in any way. We will have no further comment at this time.”