Imagine this scenario: Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni inherit the Knicks and look over the roster. Walsh decides to rebuild around the core of youngster the Knicks have and use New York’s marquee status to aim for a big free agent in 2010.
At point guard Walsh has the incumbent Stephon Marbury. The key acquisition of the Isiah Thomas era, Stephon is scheduled to earn $21M in the last year of his deal. Marbury, an older overpaid guard, doesn’t fit in with the Knicks long term plans of youth & fiscal responsibility. In fact the team is looking to dump many of their long term deals. So the Knicks sign Chris Duhon as a stop gap point guard for the next two season, and in turn make Marbury a lame duck player.
With no need for him, Walsh attempts to buy out Stephon, but Marbury is uncooperative and won’t accept anything less than his full salary. So with no other options, the Knicks try to find a spot in the rotation for Marbury. However they’re already set with their starters (Duhon and Crawford), and D’Antoni finds his skills to overlap Crawford’s (a shoot happy guard who didn’t play defense and worked better with the ball than away from it). The Knicks coach preferred to have more diversity with his rotation (Duhon – distributor, Crawford – scorer, Robinson – energy scorer, Collins – defender). D’Antoni informs Marbury of the decision to keep him out of the rotation. He gives Stephon the option to play spot minutes and the guard declines.
The team is content to keep Marbury on the bench until a spot opens up due to injury or trade. However at the Knicks home opener, a group of fans cheer “We Want Steph” (which results in a string of expletives from Mike D’Antoni). Sensing a media fiasco if the fans continue to call for Marbury, D’Antoni & Walsh agree to keep him inactive to take away the option of inserting Stephon into a game.
Fast forward to Friday’s game. With the team trading two guards from their rotation, the team tells Marbury that there’s a place in the rotation with major minutes for him. They offer 30+ minutes to Stephon, but the guard refuses to play.
The above story is fiction, because I have no access to Mike D’Antoni, Donnie Walsh, or Stephon Marbury’s thoughts. However many of the facts are true. D’Antoni was quoted as saying “I did not want to embarrass [Marbury] by spot minutes. We talked about it, and it was both our decision that he go on inactive.” According to the New York Post, D’Antoni told Stephon that “[Jamal Crawford] is gone … there’s 30-35 minutes out there that’s yours if you want them.” Even if you reject the fictional aspect of the above account, using the facts that I based the story on there’s only one logical conclusion: Stephon Marbury’s ego prevented him from rejoining the team.
I’d like to think of myself as a person that will listen to both sides of an argument, but I can’t imagine any scenario that would justify Marbury’s actions. This could have been a marriage of opportunity. The team lost two guards yesterday, so there are plenty of minutes to go around even with the arrival of Mobley. Last night Marbury could have asserted himself as the starting SG for the rest of the season. But on Friday night when the team clearly needed him, Stephon chose himself. He left his teammates to suffer a 17 point loss to a Redd-less Milwaukee. If Marbury had any friends in that clubhouse, he surely lost them after the Bucks game.
Stephon Marbury is defined by his opposing extremes. Marbury’s incredible strengths as a player (scoring in the paint, running the pick & roll) made him desired by teams. But his inability to work on the things to make himself a complete player (defense, operate outside the pick & roll) left him unwanted by the teams he was on. Unlike many athletes who use sneaker contracts to make themselves rich, Marbury created an inexpensive line of sneakers to benefit those that can’t afford to overpay for footwear. But his philanthropy has been undermined by his other actions. There are many to name, but the two that come to mind are his testimony of sleeping with an intern, and his threat to blackmail his coach.
Stephon Marbury has decided he won’t play for the Knicks anymore. But by refusing to play for his team this weekend, he’s hurt his chance to play elsewhere. I can’t imagine another team out there saying “hey Stephon refused to play for his team when they needed him – that’s the kind of attitude we want in our locker room!” Marbury has said he’d like to play in Italy, but which NBA coach do you think an Italian team is going to call to inquire if they should sign Stephon? Right the same one Marbury is currently driving crazy.
Stephon Marbury is his own best friend and his own worst enemy at the same time. Last night was a prime example of it.