A year and a week ago, the Knicks had hit their worst stride since the Patrick Ewing era. New York was expected to compete for the playoffs, and actually spent a good portion of 2004 in first place in the East. Unfortunately 2005 wasn’t as kind. The Knicks lost 9 of their first 10 games, going from a healthy 16-13 to a wavering 17-22. With the team in shambles and desperate for a change, New York needed someone to take blame for failing to meet expectations. On January 22nd, Lenny Wilkens fell on the axe, and resigned as the New York Knicks coach.
Fast forward a year and a week, and the situation is eerily similar. Patrolling the Knicks sideline is a win-now coach in Larry Brown. The Knicks revamped their team in the offseason with a mix of veterans (Antonio Davis, Quentin Richardson) and youngins (Curry, Frye, Lee, Robinson) to make them competitive this year. The Knicks weren’t expected to unseat the Pistons or Heat, but they were so sure that they’d be out of the lottery that they gave away two first round picks without any restrictions. Just like a year ago, New York has failed to meet expectations. Again the Knicks have lost 9 of their last 10 games. And again it’s time to find a fall guy.
However this year, unless Larry Brown has changed his opinion on his dream job, he isn’t handing in a letter of resignation. Unlike Wilkens, Brown isn’t a relic of yesteryear, trying to hold on to his last chance at an NBA coaching job. Long Island Larry is coming off back to back Finals appearances. He isn’t in New York accepting a charity position. Brown is the real thing.
The Knicks can’t blame the players for their woes. This season’s 14-30 record isn’t the fault of Stephon Marbury. You just have to look at the three games the Knicks played without him for proof of that. It’s not Jamal Crawford or Nate Robinson’s fault for being unable to play the point in Marbury’s stead, because they’re not made for that role. It’s not Eddy Curry’s fault for not being able to play defense, rebound, or cut down his turnovers, because that’s what he was before he got here. It’s not Jerome James’ fault for having a few good playoff games. Even if you disagree and would like to blame the roster, they’re not going to be the fall guy, because you can’t trade any of them. No one is going to take Jerome James for 5 years. No one is going to want Eddy Curry, who can’t manage to play more than 27 minutes a game, despite his backups being Davis, James, and Butler. Nobody is going to want Quentin Richardson, who’s so detached from his former self I swear he’s suffering from basketball amnesia. Somebody might want Marbury, but that loser tag that’s been slapped on him since New Jersey makes his value lower with each loss.
So you can’t use the coach as the scapegoat. You can’t use the players. And the owner isn’t going to fire himself. Knick fans that are looking for a sacrifice to offer to the basketball gods have one person left to roast: Isiah Thomas. There is no one else to blame this mess on. While he didn’t walk into an ideal situation, it’s undeniable that he’s made his share of mistakes. Every single person on this roster was picked by Isiah. The coach was picked by Isiah. Every single draft pick owed is because of Isiah. There’s no one else to blame. If New York was 30-14 instead, I’d be here praising the Knicks’ president for his work. But you’re only as good as your record, and the Knicks have the third worst record in the league. Someone has to be responsible for this mess, and like an election in Cuba, there is only one legitimate candidate.