On December 20th, 2003, a bad New York Knicks team defeated an even worse Atlanta Hawks team, 103-92. The starters for the Knicks in that game were Allan Houston, Antonio McDyess, Keith Van Horn, Dikembe Mutombo and Howard Eisley (do note that 3/5th of the starting five are no longer in the league, and a fourth is so old that he used to babysit Julio Franco). The reserves were Kurt Thomas, Charlie Ward, Frank Williams, Shandon Anderson and Michael Doleac (3/5th of THEM are ALSO out of the league now, with Doleac hanging on by a thread).
Two days later, on December 22nd, 2003 – four years ago today, the Knicks hired Isiah Thomas as their new President and General Manager. Their next game was December 23rd, and appropriately enough, they lost.
I still remember where I was when I heard about the move. I was doing some last second Christmas shopping at the Strand at Union Square, when my brother called me up to let me know that Layden had finally been fired. He asked me to guess who they replaced him with. I went through the typical names being floated around at the time. And he finally had to tell me – Isiah freakin’ Thomas. We both laughed at the awfulness of the move, but being a loyal Knicks fan, I tried convincing myself it really was not that bad, although I automatically presumed that Allan Houston, Keith Van Horn and Kurt Thomas would be traded immediately, as they did not strike me as the type of players Isiah would like.
A few weeks later, Isiah made his signature move – his trade for Stephon Marbury. On January 6th, 2004, Marbury made his Knick debut. Appropriately enough, they lost.
Looking back now, one thing that I find it hard to imagine was that I was not even that mad about the Knicks at the time, but looking at the roster now – what the hell was going on then? Do you remember when Knick fans (including myself) were getting themselves excited over the Antonio McDyess era?!?! “Nah, don’t worry – as soon as McDyess is finally healthy, THEN we can talk!” How deluded were we?
I think what helped was that back then, just as it is now, the Eastern Conference was pretty bad, so I was fairly confident that the Knicks could make the playoffs with just slight tweaking.
And tweak, Isiah Thomas did, and hey, the Knicks DID make the playoffs that year (with a losing record, and proceeded to get STOMPED by the Nets, but who’s counting?).
I remembered thinking, “Stephon Marbury, Allan Houston, Tim Thomas, Kurt Thomas and Nazr Mohammed, with Jamal Crawford off the bench? In the crappy East – that might not be THAT bad.”
Oh, but it was.
But there I was, in Game 23 (when Houston returned to the lineup after missing the first 22 games), watching Allan Houston tie the game on a three-pointer in the closing seconds in his FIRST game back, and thinking, “Man, things won’t be so bad anymore!”
But they were.
More injury woes in that season made it basically JUST tantalizing enough for me to think, “Okay, maybe they can recover.”
Then the crazy summer of 2005 happened. Isiah decided, “We’re going to run like the Suns, let me trade Kurt Thomas for Quentin Richardson! Wait a sec…Larry Brown is available? We have to get him! Wait a sec…Eddy Curry is available? We have to get him, too!”
And thusly, we had the 2005-06 season, which had basically one good thing – the Knicks debut of David Lee.
Still, after that season, I think most of us STILL thought, “Okay, they can’t be THAT bad again, Larry Brown is a lunatic (he was). Frye will be good again, Lee will play better, Curry can’t suck this much again – there is some hope here.”
And, for a short period of time, there WAS hope.
Then Lee went down.
Which brings us to this year, where Isiah is still tweaking, adding Zach Randolph to the team, and the team being just as bad as ever (even a little worse than usual).
So here we are, four years later – basically in the same boat the team was on December 21st, 2003 – not a good team, and no real prospects of BECOMING a good team. To Isiah’s credit, I suppose, this Knicks team is at least YOUNG with no prospects, as compared to the ancient monstrosity that was the team Thomas inherited. And the Knicks DO have David Lee – that’s something, right?
Happy Anniversary, Isiah!!