Isiah’s Latest Trade Is A No-Brainer

In terms of talent this trade is a no-brainer. Penny Hardaway is 6 years and 2 knees removed from his last good season. Meanwhile Trevor Ariza is a liability in the half court set, and unless you’re Ben Wallace it doesn’t normally work to play 4 on 5. Steve Francis can put the ball in the hoop, and is just a shade under 20 points per game for his career. He’s an excellent rebounder for a guard, and can dish the ball as well. In other words Francis is a nice addition to your fantasy team. But in the real world, Stevie Franchise joining the Knicks is a fantasy only for the rest of the league.

There’s more to consider about the Knicks’ latest trade than just talent. Francis comes with a franchise sized contract that tops out at $17M before expiring in 2009. Adding Francis’ contract to Marbury’s, Richardson’s, Crawford’s, and Jerome James’ means New York will be over the cap until 2009. Grabbing another long term deal in Francis shows the Knicks are committed to never being under the cap. If that doesn’t signal the end of the Knicks rebuilding plans, then there’s always the sobering reality that they traded a player who has yet to have his first legal beer for a 29 year old former All Star. With the deal boiling down to Ariza & a piece of paper with Penny Hardaway’s signature on it for Francis, it’s hard to argue that the Knicks are trying to get younger anymore.

Meanwhile it’s clear that Francis isn’t a complimentary player for this Knicks team. Just about the last player New York needs is another low percentage-turnover prone-needs the ball in his hands-player. Throw in that a Francis-Marbury backcourt means that every night one opposing guard will have an unobstructed view to the hoop, and it means that the Knicks defensive woes will just get worse. As for demeanor, Francis pouted his way through the first half of this season for a bad Orlando team under strict disciplinarian Bob Hill. I would have paid to see the look on Steve’s face when he was told he was sent to the only team in the league having the combination of a worse record and stricter coach. [KnickerBlogger ASCII artist rendition of that face :-\ ]

Ardent Isiah supporters point to how much more talented Francis is, and how easy it will be to move Taylor & Rose with their expiring contracts over the summer. But I have to ask, what kind of players will Isiah get by dangling those players in front of the league’s GMs? Don?t you think if Steve Francis was worth more than an expiring contract and a raw twenty year old, the Magic would have taken that deal instead? Using the expiring contract technique the Knicks have only been able to grab players who have one foot out the door in their current city. Marbury, Crawford, Curry, Rose, Taylor, James, Richardson, and Francis all come from teams desperate to get rid of them. The Knicks haven’t been able to get players that fit their needs. Instead New York can only acquire the league’s undesirables.

So while Francis is better than both players the Knicks shipped away for him, he’s doesn’t he add to the team’s trading flexibility. Nor does he become more valuable after another year in his third team. Nor does he fit into any rebuilding plans. Francis doesn’t even address the team most important on the court needs.

Yup sounds like a no-brainer to me.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

35 thoughts to “Isiah’s Latest Trade Is A No-Brainer”

  1. I think the face was more like this >:(

    And since when did Q-Rich have one foot out the door in Phoenix? I thought they liked him there.

  2. Hello from Germany,

    for me as a hardcore Knicks fan for life and for years it hasen’t been easy for the both of us seeing our favorite team getting kicked from the finals, finding themselves in the lottery a few seasons later. From there on it didn’t really go well the last couple of years. But from my view across the atlantic i can see some ray of light at the end of the tunnel ;-). Since Isiah took over the Knicks, he has done the things people were yelling at the Grunfeld guy and the one that came after him. Neither of those could lure real talent to New York… no draftees, no free agents… Isiah has brought both. Not quite the style and portions a rational thinking guy would bring in. (BTW i hate this Isiah guy really as a person but as a GM well…)
    First of all he got the team younger!
    Thats a fact in my opinion. Bringing in Marbury
    seemed from a lot of views real nice. Having a standout to build a team around him.

    Getting Crawford and Curry from Chicago seemed in both trades not too bad for us, too. It didn?t work out quite to well so far, or have you missed Tim Thomas around? ;-)

    Even now picking up Steve Francis’s huge contract. Maybay Isiah has already figured out that Marbury can’t handle the Knicks so he’s looking for a new fit before getting rid of the old one which still has some market potential to pick up 2 good backups if the mix of francis, crawford, curry, fry can find better chemistry then Marbury playing the point guard.

    Mr. Thomas has to do a hard focusing job. If he wants to keep his own he doesn’t have the time the “Bulls(still reb.)” or Pistons had to rebuild. New York is a media and fan crazy city that doesn’t allow mistakes or long times of playoff absence. So from his standpoint he didn’t really do a bad job so far.

    I totally agree with your critics in the Richardson and James trade. Both players are not worth the money they are making the next years.
    James was a real gamble for Thomas that didn’t work out in any way but nobody could see Curry being available for much less networth then under regular circumstances. Bad for James i didnt regret the Curry trade even with the injury risk. He’s young he needs to develop, give him some time and he will bring up the numbers everybody is asking for.
    Q-Rich had like James very promising glmipses of playing ability last season. But nobody wants to have the personal issues that he had at the start of the season.
    Rose Taylor and Rose? trades are not worth to mention maybe Thomas owned their families some money to pick em up i don’t know.
    BUT all in all Thomas got a young core of nucleas that need to find their way together. I would bet that next season looks totally different, then everybody loves Mr.WhiteGrin for what he did to the Knicks ;-)) but thats just me guessing.

    Whats the deal about the cap problem ? Maybe i didn?t get it yet. N.Y. has to pay luxery tax for being over it. Thats all? So then why care about it if Dolan is willing to pay any payroll anyway?
    NY doesn’t get any problems signing free agents because being over the cap or am i being wrong here? They just need to flex the cap even further ;-)

    Excuse my maybe at some points funny english. i had to keep this short and its hard to brainwah you with all the love-hate i have for Isiah Thomas…

  3. Let’s start a pool! Pick the day Isiah gets fired / resigns (wink, wink).

    I’ll start: 4/25/06 — Tuesday, 6 days after the Knicks pick up their 63rd and final loss of the season.

  4. This is a risky move. It could pay dividends or it could backfire. Since the potential negative aspects of this deal have been beaten to death in all four corners of the globe, though, it might be instructive to balance things out and take a look at the potential positives.

    Regarding the cap– True, we’re not going to be under the cap for a long time. This is the model our team is running on now. If there is any silver lining in this latest cap addition, though, it is that Francis’s contract does not extend past Marbury’s, and Marbury’s contract has become the new de facto Allan Houston benchmark for cap hopelessness. Unless we do a contract dump Marbury trade (highly unlikely), realistically speaking, we are not going to get under the cap as long as Marbury is here. If one accepts this, then the Francis trade is not really a cap killer (since the cap was already dead). In fact, far more harmful than Francis’s contract are the recent additions of Richardson, Crawford, and James, all of whom have contracts that last one year longer than Marbury.

    Regarding Francis as a trade asset– Orlando did the smart thing by making this a contract dump. However, they could have gone for the immediate talent route if they wished. If the rumor mill is to be believed, at least three other teams were making competetive offers for Francis (Denver, Portland, LA). Thus, it seems likely that the Knicks would be able to trade Francis as part of a package returning immediate talent, if they so wished and if the circumstances were right.

    Regarding Francis as a player on this team– I don’t know what to expect, really. But again, since the potential negatives are already well publicized, I’m going to look at the potential positives.

    The Knicks looked like they were beginning to piece things together in early January, posting a 6 game win streak over quality competition. Then they completely fell apart and lost something like 10 of 11. What happened? It’s not hard to decide that the primary cause was Marbury’s injury. This in turn demonstrates the extent to which Marbury was instrumental in this team’s run of good play. We simply were not talented and consistent enough, especially in the backcourt, to sustain an injury to Marbury and pick up the slack.

    Francis at least does address this issue. Our success should no longer so crucially hinge on Marbury, simply because Francis brings similar production. I’m hopeful (not by any stretch convinced, but at least hopeful) that with Francis here, we will be able to recapture some of that early January success.

    Consider also that during that run, our starting backcourt was Marbury and Robinson. An apt comparison for Robinson seems to be a poor man’s Steve Francis. Well, now we’re dishing out the dollars to have the rich man’s version. If Robinson and Marbury had success together, it is at the very least *conceivable*, if not overly likely, that Francis and Marbury can have similar success.

    As for the defense– I’m honestly not concerned very much at all in this respect. Francis will not be a world beater on D. But honestly, I cannot see how he could possibly be more of a defensive liability as a backcourtmate to Marbury than Robinson (due to his height) or Crawford (“the runny matador”).

  5. my highlighted word is “curse”…

    a few quick hitters:

    * i’m less enamored of getting all the way under the cap than some. my thing is that you cannot have multiple untradeable contracts. you’d rather be capped out with one or two huge contracts (which was phoenix’s issue precipitating the marbury/penny trade) than with 5 or more smaller but sizable deals. that’s a far worse state of affairs than mere dollars above the cap.

    this is what isiah has wrought.

    * the one deal that would have helped two teams the most yesterday was crawford for earl watson straight up. denver should have done this deal because they need another scoring guard. new york needed better defense and fewer turnovers. i’d assumed that the numbers didn’t match but then i read otherwise.

    to me, this non-deal is actually worse than the francis deal. who could argue that watson isn’t a brown-type guy? this deal made too much sense not to do.

    i can’t even call the front office shortsighted anymore. i don’t know what this is.

  6. dave, fwiw I recall reading somewhere that Craw for Watson was on the table from NY, but Denver preferred getting Evans and Patterson. I can’t really blame them. They still have a hole at SG but they have some good toughness for the playoff push.

  7. I don’t know, I think at the end of the day everyone is being very quick to jump on Isiah for this deal, but if you read you can see that this was Brown’s idea in the first place. I think give it a go, maybe Rose will play like a point forward, with the two guards off the ball. Both Rose and Francis were Brown’s idea.

    Ultimately, if Isiah failed at the deadline it was because he failed to trade any of his surplus guards for some big men who can defend. If he could turn back time I’m sure he’d take back the Q-Rich/Nate for Kurt Thomas deal and Nazr Mohammed for Rose deal.

    A line up of Curry, Thomas, Rose, Francis, Marbury, with Crawford, Frye, Mohammed and Woods looks pretty well balanced to me.

    Much more defence/rebounding/experience up front, 3 guards to rotate minutes, a decent back-up SF – pretty much the kind of team Brown would want.

    In my mind, it is ultimately trading away those useful big men (Thomas and Mohammed) that has caused the Knicks to be so unsuccessful this season, and the trades that Isiah should be held accountable for.

  8. from charley rosen:
    “And if Larry Brown isn’t particularly fond of Stephon Marbury’s game, then why bring in another player with exactly the same strengths, weaknesses, needs and rampant ego-mania? Only because Isiah Thomas is buying time ? something that with each new trade and/or free agent signing, he’s proven to be a master at achieving. Even the highly critical New York media will hold their fire for a while to give Francis a chance to assimilate. When was the last time, and when will be the next time, that the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Zeke has been mentioned in the local media?

  9. KB: I tend to agree with what you’re saying, but trading a piece of paper and a prospect who’s unlikely to resign given that he doesn’t see eye to eye with the coach for a former All-Star in the prime of his career could definetely be called rebuilding.

    While I’m seriously considering joining the Fire Zeke movement (particularly because Steve Francis was formerly my least favorite player in the NBA), I guess I might give him one more offseason.
    He’s certainly assembled some decent pieces to get something done this offseason. Unfortunately I have little confidence that he’ll use these pieces on anything but another overpaid, one-dimensional “scorer”.
    Kg is obviously the goal, and I think the Knicks are in as good a position as any team. However, my biggest hope is that if a KG or Paul Pierce isn’t available Zeke doesn’t max out Al Harrington. I’d be content with a strong young nucleus that’s ready in another year or two. It’s early but, looking at guys expected to enter the draft, I’m kind of hoping that Tiago Splitter, Josh Boone, or Mardy Collins is available with Denver’s pick,that Marcus Williams is available with San Antonio’s, and that there’s somewhere to put them on the roster.

    I do have some closet hope that Marbury and Francis will somehow bring out the best in each other. Francis is clearly neither a primary offensive option nor a PG, so he might be better in a reduced role off the ball. (Somehow I’m not sure he’ll see it that way, but he might be relieved enough to be getting out of Orlando not to care.) If LB is really behind this thing, given his big mouth you’d think he’d have let the media know if he wasn’t, then I can’t be totally against it.

    Side note: Isiah’s three “LB backed” moves have been for Woods, Jalen, and now Steve Francis? It seems that for better or worse LB and Zeke really are on the same page.

  10. Regarding the value of Rose and Taylor, won’t their value be at a peak next year? When a really good Free Agent class is about to be available, including a certain player in Cleveland?

  11. mase’s Charley Rosen quote is right on point. If you want some more reality, read Vecsey’s column today.

    “You might think it’d bug Dolan a little bit, though, that the ceaseless squandering is on players nobody seems to want except Thomas and supposedly Brown. For appearance sake, they’re on the same page for the time being, but, guaranteed, it’ll only be a matter of days or weeks before we find out the coach (did you check out his doom-and-gloom look at Stevie Knicks’ press conference?) wanted nothing to do with his boss’ last two imports of reproductive glands.”

    I can’t blame you guys for trying to look on the bright side of this, but really…you fell for the Isiah stall move again.

    Bottom line (as has been stated numerous times over the past two months): The Knicks are a terrible defensive team, that turns the ball over way too much.

    These are the two biggest problems they face. Marbury wants to run more…that’s nice. Just goes to show you how little Marbury understands about basketball, even after all this time. Defensive rebounds, steals — that’s how you start fast breaks. You can’t fast break off of a made basket, Steph.

    Check out LB:

    “The only way you can run is if you get stops,” Brown said. “We lead the league in fouls. That stops you from running. We lead the league in turnovers. That makes other teams run. We haven’t been the best defensive rebounding team. That keeps you from running.”

    So what did we do? We signed another guard who loves to handle the ball, and plays absolutely zero defense. Because Marbury and Crawford weren’t enough of that.

    Sorry, but there is no bright side to this…it’s just a bunch of misdirection by a man trying to keep his job.

  12. You guys are deluded if you think Isiah is ever going to figure out what the hell he’s doing. He’s a laughing stock; he’s the worst GM in the history of the NBA. His accomplishments here speak for themselves: the Knicks will probably win 25 games this year, cost $200 million, are over the cap in 2009, traded away a high lottery pick in the 2006 draft and probably another one in the 2007 draft. The roster is full of untradeable contracts, which will mean our hands are tied when a bumper crop of free agents become available in 2007. The Knicks are in the worst situation that any NBA team has ever been in.

    Worst GM of all time!

  13. I get Bayless’ point, but man…what a pile of Gammons-esque writing. I hate when sportswriters do that, just try to mold the facts to fit their argument, rather than base their arguments around the facts.

    Trying to portray the Pistons as a BAD situation for a coach is just a joke. Especially since it still DOES fit Bayless’ main position of “Larry likes to be the hero.” He DID want to be the hero in Detroit, being the coach that took them from the Eastern Conference Finals to actually winning a championship.

    Which is what he did.

    But to portray the Detroit situation as one in which 50 other coaches wouldn’t love to get a chance to coach is just silly.

  14. “The Knicks are in the worst situation that any NBA team has ever been in.”

    Actually, I think that would be the Layden Knicks, circa trading Camby and the 7th pick (potentially Amare Stoudemire) for McBumKnee. Our cap situation isn’t pretty, but the ratio of talent to dollars on the current roster is at least a lot better than the days of Spoon and Eisley.

  15. “Talent” is a word that Isiah uses a lot, but it means little. Marbury and Francis have loads of individual talent, but they just don’t seem to be team players, and don’t bring results. Being a GM is about more than just finding talent (that’s a scout). A GM has to find the correct players, including complementary role-players, and coach whose philosophy fits with those players.

    And about KG, I really don’t know if Minnesota would trade him, especially not for anyone on the Knicks’ roster, except maybe Channing Frye, and I think he’s the only reason many Knicks fans haven’t yet commited suicide.

  16. Although talent alone doesn’t win ballgames, if Larry Brown really is as great a coach as he used to be, he should be able to figure out a way to mold the Knicks into a respectable team. On paper, the Knicks should be infinitely better than they’ve performed this season.

    I’m not going to blame Zeke for the miserable season. For the most part, I like the players he’s brought in. I blame the coach.

    I mean, do you really think that the Milwakee Bucks have more talent on their roster than the Knicks? Somehow they’re a .500 team…

  17. Yeah, Larry Brown hasn’t done a very good job with these players, but who hired him? Isiah.

    Isiah also traded for these six players: Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Quentin Richardson, Jamal Crawford, Jalen Rose, and Nate Robinson. They play basically the same style/position, which I will call “shooting guard.” That’s 6 “shooting guards.” Meanwhile, how many :point guards” do the Knicks have?

  18. Gorky, I think that’s a bit unfair to Steph. He’s doing a pretty good job refinining his game at the point, and he can only continue to get better.

    Also, although I’ve been frustrated by LB’s coaching decisions, I still have faith that he’ll work this out by the end of the season. Remember his first year performances in SA and Philly?

    It doesn’t surprise me that LB wanted Rose and Francis – now we’ve got three guys who can make plays in the starting lineup. So in answer to your question, we’ve got Steph, a great passing SG in Francis, and Rose, who’s been a passing forward his entire career. That SHOULD be enough passers.

    I think that with a healthy Steph and the addition of Rose and Francis, the season will start to look up towards the end. Again, on paper, this team should start to win some games.

  19. I think the saddest part of this whole thing has been the shots Marbury has had to endure for, like, no reason.

    I mean, LAST year, fine. The dude said he was the best point guard in the game. Fine, rip him then. That’s cool.

    But this year, he’s been the best non-Frye Knick, tried his best to adapt to Brown AND has not been bitchy in the media.

    And in return?

    He gets ripped all the time.

    Not only that, but has his play in New York retroactively restated to suit the stories that the writers want to tell. Like “Isiah has not brought in any All-Star level talent.”

    How, exactly, is Marbury NOT All-Star level talent? In 2004-05, the dude had one the highest PER not to make the All-Star Game!

    By the by, while obviously it was great for Phoenix, as they were able to get Nash and Richardson for the cap space they saved, how was that trade not still a good one for the Knicks?

  20. Brian-

    good points all. Marbury had never been a guy I’ve liked much, yet few guys have taken more unfair shots at their game than he. (Sorta the NBA’s version of Jeff George. He evokes emotional reactions that belie his actual performance.) For the record my issues about Marbury have *all* been on the defensive end. (I firmly believe that when your best player is an indifferent defender everyone else will be too.)

    But you’re right. Marbury really has tried to transform his game. Certainly his value to this Knick team is difficult to overstate.

    Having said that, the Marbury deal was bad for the Knicks because of the direction it took the team. Rather than trying to get out from under the pile of crapped heaped on the roster by Layden, acquiring Marbury was about being immediately competitive. It signaled that the Knicks were going to try to change their fortunes by swapping their headaches for someone else’s.

  21. “(I firmly believe that when your best player is an indifferent defender everyone else will be too.)”

    I should re-state. When the team’s best player is indifferent on defense it’s hard to develop the trust and communication required to play good help defense. Guys get tired of picking up fouls covering for someone who doesn’t care to keep his man in front.

  22. I would agree on the defense thing if it was a case like T-Mac a couple years ago, where he was one of the league’s worst defenders because he just stopped giving a crap.

    THAT, I think, has a real effect upon the rest of the team.

    But just being an awful defender (which Marbury IS)? I don’t think that has THAT much of an effect on a team.

    I mean, Nash is a terrible defender, and it has not really affected the Suns’ awesome defense this year.

    As for the Marbury deal, I agree that, if you wish the Knicks to just try to blow the team up and start over, then yeah, it would have made more sense to just let McDyess’ contract come off the books.

    I don’t know if that was ever going to be a possibility in New York, but yeah, if you think it was, then I can see not liking the Marbury deal.

  23. Another stupid move…just what the Knicks need another selfish player with a bad attitude. Perfect, I can’t wait until Dolan fires Zeke.

  24. “I mean, Nash is a terrible defender, and it has not really affected the Suns? awesome defense this year.”

    Nash is a poor defender because of lack of lateral quickness and physical abilities, despite his hustle and effort.

    Marbury’s defensive shortcomings, in my opinion, have more to do with a lack of effort. He gets a decent number of steals, and seems to give the extra effort on select occassions, but the consistency is just not there.

  25. Well, the lack of effort on defense was certainly on display tonight. 23 points in the first quarter? The shoulder must have been killing Steph against the Wizards.

  26. Again, Steph has been trying his best out there on D. What’s bothering me about Steph lately is that he’s become an indifferent scorer! He’s been so ready to “sacrifice” his game that he really believes he needs to sacrifice the elements of his game that earned him the Starbury moniker…and right now, that’s not making anybody happy. Maybe Francis’ arrival will show Steph that it should be HIM and not Francis or Crawford or Nate calling isolation plays and driving like mad to the hoop. Unfortunately he’s probably going to be fighting off that shoulder sprain for the rest of the season.

    It’s going to be really painful to watch (moreso)now that the trade deadline has passed. I really would have like to see some Blazers come over for some bloated contract swapping.

    Ruben Patterson – how can you knock the guy? He’s like Billy Joe Cuthbert, giving 117% on D. Too bad he’s a sex offender. ^_^

    Theo Ratliff – are you kidding me??? Shot blocking. D D D. I would have traded Curry and James for him… Who cares if he’s getting old. Curry is learning at a snail’s pace, and he’s not getting any younger himself with his gimpyass body and his sadsack attitude.

    Darius Miles – why couldn’t they get this deal to go through??? Seems like it would be easy enough. Argh.

    Just cross your fingers and hope Boston might get dumb and trade Pierce for Francis.

    Again, cross your fingers and PRAY that somebody will take Crawford, Q, Taylor, Rose x2, James off our hands for a point guard, a young SF who isn’t a gimp or a maxed out untradable, a shot blocker, and a bag of peanuts.

    My fantasy Knicks team:
    PG: Steph SG: Paul Pierce, SF: Al Harrington, PF: Frye, C: Ratliff. Bench: Curry, Brevin Knight, N8, Lee, Q Woods, and a bag of peanuts.

    I guess that’s too much to ask, but you know…

  27. What’s the deal with Francis shaving his head? It was nearly impossible to tell who was bringing the ball up against Washington.
    Look at the cover picture on

    I thought Francis was trying to distinguish himself from Marbury.

  28. When your team sucks it’s probably better to collect promising players. Guys like Rose, Francis, Garnett, Pierce, and Harrington have all hit their ceilings. Orlando’s got the right idea building around someone on the rise, Dwight Howard.

    Someone like Frye is the most appropriate core for this team because if he ends up sucking, you can just not sign him and move on. That wouldn’t be the case with an established star like Pierce or Garnett.

  29. Gabe-

    let me disagree with you slightly about Marbury’s D. I’ve really tried to watch carefully with him. I actually believe he does not have near as much lateral quickness as many people think. He has good–but not exceptional–lateral quickness. His most exceptional athletic trait is his (pound for pound) upper body strength.

    On offense what allows him to be such an effective penetrator is his upper body strength. He’s quick enough to dip that shoulder and blow up the defender’s angle but the rest is power, particularly against most other point guards. In fact, where he’s struggled offensively is in matchups against guards he cannot overpower (e.g., billups, francis).

    On defense however, upper body strength isn’t nearly as useful at his position. Combine that with is only adequate quickness and you have the makings of a poor defensive guard. Marbury’s historically been an indifferent defender but the past couple years he’s had stretches where he’s really tried to defend. He just can’t. He gets torched by quicker point guards. Francis routinely abused him in their matchups.

    (Jamal Crawford, on the other hand, has phenomenal quickness but not nearly enough strength to be a consistent penetrator on offense or to stop any penetration on D.)

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