Starbury Stuck in the Doggy Door

The ongoing soap opera style feud between coach and star player hit rock bottom yesterday (well, hopefully). Brown, in a press conference, ripped “Marbury a.k.a. Starbury” a new one, questioning his willingness to “play the right way,” as well as his [basketball] IQ. According to David Waldstein in today’s Newark Star Ledger:

[Brown] also put the onus on Marbury when he said that if the point guard hasn’t by now grasped his basic concepts of defense, rebounding and unselfish play then, “it’s not on me.” Said the coach: “The bottom line is, I want us to rebound the ball, share the ball, defend and play hard. That’s all. If you can’t do that, if that’s not important enough to you, it’s not on me. It’s not on me. And you owe it to your teammates to do that every single night if you care about the right things.”

Not that the Knicks haven’t been spiraling toward rock bottom since January but they are unmistakably there now. Sigh.

A good friend of mine tells a great story about being in a bad relationship, hitting rock bottom, having to just get up and walk away in the middle of the night, but forgetting his keys. When he returned the next day to pick up his things the doors were, not surprisingly, locked. Long story short: he got himself stuck trying to crawl in through the doggy door. It took him 30 minutes to finally slither through and get his things. During that half-hour stuck in the doggy door his mini epiphany was that he knew he’d hit rock bottom; that for all practical purposes he’d seen the worst. In an odd way he said it was kind of freeing. He looked at things differently from then on.

Marbury is stuck in his own personal doggy door. How he handles himself will in large part set the trajectory for his remaining playing days and his legacy as a player, such that it is.

Here are the two questions about this Brown-Marbury feud I’ll be looking to see answered over the remaining 20 painful games.

1. Is there any method to Brown’s madness?

The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that Brown’s constant public agitation of Marbury was designed to bait him into an outburst, or at least that such an outburst was the most likely consequence. It certainly had the effect–if not the intent–of opening the door for the coach to assert his authority in a very public way. Marbury has had institutional power over all of his previous coaches, forcing them to publicly coddle him; but not Brown.

So this must be some Marine Corps-inspired training designed to first humiliate then re-make Marbury, right? Brown wants Marbury–and everyone else–to know that he’s the man in no uncertain terms, right? That must be it because otherwise there would have been no need to constantly denigrate him in the press. (If nothing else it further diminished the already tiny possibility of trading him.) Well, if this is all part of some master plan then Brown has clearly taken the high ground (if not the high road) with yesterday’s press conference. He now has Marbury right where he wants him. Of course it’s far easier to tear people down than to build them up, which is one reason the Marine Corps training style tends not to work so well outside the Corps. So now what? I for one have no idea but am gonna be damned interested to see what Brown does next.

2. When will it set in on Marbury that he entered a battle he cannot possibly win? What will he do?

Irrespective of whether Brown intentionally baited Marbury into his outburst following the Denver loss, he has thrown him completely under the proverbial bus for it. Brown has also drawn an equally proverbial line in the sand (“I wish he would turn into Starbury.”), a line Marbury may now lack the skills to cross–even if he has the temerity. It is now clear that Starbury glows a little dimmer than he used to. He has reached the point where he’s closer to his physical decline than to his physical peak, and that fact coupled with a few others make him far less powerful than he has ever been in a coach player relationship. Should Brown follow through on his thinly veiled threat to start Steve Francis and move Marbury to the bench Steph could do little to forestall it with his play. He is for the first time something less than a monumental upgrade over his backup. Peter Vescey may be the closest thing he has to a friend in the media who might portray him as a sympathetic figure over Brown–a thought that sends a shudder down my spine. He has an untradeable contract and little bargaining position with which to coax a favorable offseason buyout if it comes to that.

So now I can’t wait to see Marbury’s next move. He has little choice but to play ball the way Brown wants or pout. If recent history is any indication he’ll choose the latter. If he does then this thing will become “reality TV” series worthy. I hope I am wrong about his choice. In any event I think the next 20 games will tell us just about everything we need to know about Stephon Marbury as a player.

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Part-time blogger on the Knicks at and Seahawks at In my free time I hang out at the University of South Carolina and occasionally fill thirsty young minds with knowledge about various and sundry things related to consumer behavior and marketing.

37 thoughts to “Starbury Stuck in the Doggy Door”

  1. Here’s the choicest excerpts from the Insider blog:

    The Larry Brown vs. Stephon Marbury feud escalated this morning at the Knicks’ shootaround, the hate-hate relationship sinking
    to new depths of discord.

    First, Marbury stood before reporters, called Brown insecure and vowed he’d keep striking back at Brown whenever he feels he’s
    been publicly criticized.

    Next, Brown castigated Marbury for having a selfish agenda and deflecting blame.

    “I think it’s personal now,” Marbury said. “I don’t think it’s about basketball anymore. Now it’s to the point where he’s putting his
    30-year career against my 10-year career. You know, coach is a great coach is what everyone says. We’re supposed to be better
    than what we are. Did it happen now? No.”

    Brown was a portrait of disgust one day after asking people to compare his track record vs. his point guard’s. Criticizing
    Marbury’s “agenda,” Brown also insinuated that Marbury hadn’t accepted his share of the criticism for the Knicks having the
    NBA’s worst record despite its highest payroll.
    “So, you’re the best guard in the league and the team is 17-45, yeah, it’s the coach’s fault,” Brown said.

    This was the fifth straight day of the two adversaries bickering at each other, and Wednesday’s developments left the rest of the
    team staring in disbelief as first Marbury, then Brown, went through the ritual of airing their gripes through the team’s beat

    “You’ve got to wonder whether both these guys own newspaper stocks,” quipped Howard Beck of the Times.

    A few more quotes from Marbury’s diatribe and Brown’s retort:

    From Marbury:

    “If coach is comparing his career to my career, he’s got like a 20-year edge on me. To me that sounds like a lot of insecurity is
    going on. ? He’s speaking on things he’s done, and I think people in New York want to know what he’s going to do, you know, as far as us winning. What happened in the past is the past. I think New Yorkers can relate [to] what’s going to happen now. We live more in the present.”

    On whether Brown had crossed the line by comparing his own track record of improving the teams he has coached to Marbury’s
    history of failing to make better any of the teams he’s been traded to:

    “He always crosses the line. That’s not nothing new. Certain coaches deal with certain things certain ways, and he handles his things through the media as opposed to sitting down and talking with people. And still, if you sit down and you talk with coach, it’s liable to get back to everybody, so you’re really not safe there either.”

    On whether he wants to play for Brown:

    “I want to play basketball in New York. I love New York, and I believe New York loves me. ? I’m at the point where I just want to win, and I want to play in New York more than anything in this world. But if that’s not happening next year, I can’t cry about it. I’ve been in this situation before and I understand, I know it’s a business.”

    On whether Isiah Thomas should step in and try to resolve the feud:

    “We don’t have to have another grown man come and mediate two grown men. What’s that about? He’s the boss, but if there’s a problem, come to me like a man. I don’t have no problem. I’m comfortable with myself. I know who I am as a person.”

    On their future:

    “I can coexist. I can’t speak for another person. I’m cool. I’m fine. I can deal with it. But I’m no longer going to allow him to say things about me and I’m not going to say anything back. I mean that’s just not going to happen. That’s not going to happen. I allowed him to drag me the first three or four months in the paper, and I didn’t say one word. I just sat back and just took it. But I’m not taking it no more. If something’s going to be said, I’m going to defend myself. My mother taught me that: Somebody hits you, you hit them back.”

    On what the solution might be:

    “I don’t know. If I was a chemistry teacher, I’d probably have an answer, but I don’t. ? I don’t need no new start. My start is right here in New York unless they say otherwise.”

    A few snippets from Brown:

    Upon being informed that Marbury planned to continue answering perceived slights through the media:

    “That’s great, that’s great. Again, I’m the coach of a basketball team, and the only thing that matters to me is that we play the right way, share the ball, try to guard and care about our teammates. I’m going to focus on that. I’m not going to focus on things that have nothing to do with being a good teammate. I’ve been coaching the same way my whole life. Things that really matter, I’ve said over and over and over again. It’s amazing to me. I’ve never had a problem getting people to understand that before, and it’s
    mind boggling to me after we win two games that it becomes an issue. So I want to focus on guys that are trying to do the right things to help our team win, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

    Ever deal with anything like this before?

    “Never. Never.”

    Does it raise doubts in Brown’s mind about whether he and Marbury are a good pairing going forward?

    “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. No coach, no coach, would enjoy this situation. Because every coach that coaches this sport, it’s about team. And when you hear players talk about team, you get real excited. When you don’t hear players talk about team, it’s not a lot of fun.”

    Would he walk away in frustration?

    “No, no. No, no.”

    Is the best solution to trade Marbury over the summer?

    “I’m not even thinking about that. I’m just trying to coach our team and make guys better. I want guys that care about the team that want to win games that understand what our problems are and try to correct them.”

    Is Marbury one of those guys?

    “Well, we’ll see. We’re 17-45, and I’ll take full responsibility for us winning 17 games and losing 45. So, you’re the best guard in the league and the team is 17-45, yeah, it’s the coach’s fault.

    “I don’t know why you play a team sport and not be concerned about making your teammates better and helping your team win games. That’s the only thing that really matters, and if you’re the best player, surely you’re going to have some effect on the game’s outcome. And I’ve said this from Day 1, I’ve never given anybody in my career more free rein. In my career. And I went to the conference finals with Haywoode Workman as the point guard. Eric Snow was the fourth-string point guard in Seattle, and we went to the NBA Finals [with Snow in Philadelphia].

    “I’ve been around guys, and every good team, it’s all about team, and that’s what we’re going to try and get. You want to come and join that? That’s fine. That’s the only message that needs to be sent. You want to be part of the team and make your teammates better, you want to care about the right things and playing the right way, this is a pretty good place to be. You don’t
    have that on your agenda, then this is probably a bad place to be.”

  2. I have to say, I’m with Marbury on this one. Brown has done everything he could to undermine the team’s confidence and it’s no surprise that they look to have quit on him. His criticism exclusively through the media is particularly ugly. You never used to see Van Gundy do that when he was here and that’s a likely reason why he inspired so much loyalty from his players. Based on what Marbury said today, it seems that Brown can’t even be trusted to keep his talks with his players confidential.

    Plus, Brown’s random substitution patterns have also likely undermined any trust the team has in him. In the Times today, Brown said: “Since the fifth week of the season, we’re the second-worst field-goal percentage defensive team in the world.” I watch most of the games, even this year, and you could really see a lot of defensive effort in the first few weeks of the season. The statistics supported that observation as well. But Brown’s substitution patterns did not appear to be based on defensive effort or success. It’s not a big surprise that the team tuned him out.

    Brown can talk all he wants about doing things the right way and thinking about the team, but he’s full of it. His dalliances with Cleveland while in Detroit, with UCLA while with the Nets, and the way he left San Antonio all make clear that Larry is about Larry. Marbury has played hurt for years and has been among the league leaders in assists. It’s not so clear to me that he’s not more qualified to talk about team.

  3. Both Marbury and Brown make some good points but it also seems like both are selfish bastards. Looks like their relationship, though, is destroyed, and Marbury will be gone this summer. There goes Isiah’s experiment.

  4. Thanks for the excerpt Mark R.

    Whether LB just can’t help himself, or calling Marbury out on purpose in some bizarro-world attempt to motivate him, I can’t wait to see Marbury’s next game–particularly on defense.

    I mean, it’s hard to imagine him being a worse defender. So will Brown bench him if he appears indifferent? Will Marbury look to score 50? I can only imagine that the next home game will be packed. Everyone will just want to see. The possibilities here are endless.

  5. Well, Brown must know what he’s talking about.

    The Knicks won tonight with Starbury scoring only 8.

  6. Yeah, he must know what he’s talking about…the Knicks beat the Hawks in 2OT.

    Brown is completely out of line. This is a genius? Marbury has done everything he can to make this work. He has no one around him (until Francis and Rose, who else was on this team?), and a coach who wants to sabotage him. It’s a no-win. Brown should be fired for conduct unbeffiting a head coach.

  7. As much as I hate what Brown’s been doing, you’ve gotta give him props for keeping that squad in for the whole 4th and OT. Instead of his schizophrenic roster shifting, he stuck to what worked for once.

  8. Larry Brown does have a point about the fact that Stephon Marbury has never won jack, never made any team better and has always worn out his welcome. Screw Stephon. He ain’t that great. He is nowhere near as great as he thinks he is. Starbury, my ass. He stepped out and complained in the first place, and now he’s whining because Brown hit back. What a puss.

  9. I think this dust up is part of Brown’s carefully constructed exit strategy.
    Marbury took the bait and will be the villian.


  10. I didn’t used to feel this way about Larry Brown during the Pistons days, but I’m starting to agree with Bill Davidson: Larry Brown is a bad person.

    He has proven himself to be a mercenary coach with mercenary methods of getting what he wants. He’s using bullying tactics to get his players, Dolan and Isiah under his thumb, and NOTHING good has come of it. The organization is in shambles, we’ve got more bloated untradable contracts than we’ve ever had, our star players are used as benchwarmers, and the team doesn’t trust our coach one little bit. Whoopie.

    All is forgiven when everything is running smoothly and the wins keep coming. However, when a coach is getting paid $10 million a season to act like a domineering @$$hole with no tangible results, is it too much to ask that SOMETHING good come of it? I couldn’t tell you a single thing that Larry Brown has done to make the Knicks a better team…so why does he get the free pass?

    No “good person” and certainly no good coach needlessly demeans the players that count on him; instead of working out the issues behind closed doors–something that would actually engender trust from his players–Larry Brown is playing the part of the drama queen, whining for tabloid rags and placing his massive ego over the future of the team…and yet again, NOTHING good has come out of it. You can’t shame players into greatness.

    LB is a selfish, egomaniacal glory hog looking for accolades in all the wrong places. He needs to understand that the Knicks aren’t all about Larry Brown, despite what he thinks. Maybe him and Steph should try out for the “track team” together.

    Are you trying to tell me that Flip Saunders couldn’t get 30 wins out of this team? Bah. He’d probably get 35. Time to fire Isiah AND Larry.

  11. How about Woods’ dunk and Lee’s double-clutch finish over Harrington off a Robinson pass. The 4th quarter and OT last night was finally exciting basketball, something we haven’t really seen from the starters of late. I would much rather see guys on the floor who are hungry and play with energy than the stodgy vets. As far as Marbury goes, its a shame that it took this long for the feud to boil over, after the trade deadline was already over.

  12. Hummm, another thought…if the NBA was like the NFL, where you could just cut any player at the organization’s will without penalty, who on the Knicks would still be on the team?

    And again, if the NBA was like the NFL, wouldn’t the head coach get fired before anyone else?

    I think it’s time for salary cap and contract reform in the NBA. The league rules have been ruining the game itself for far too long.

    Incidentally, my word was “cure”.

  13. This whole situation is still Isiah’s fault though, because he had/has no vision of what the Knick’s team identity is. He has just accumulated different types of talent and crossed his fingers, hoping it would mesh. Obviously it hasn’t.

    All the while, the sports media, knowing Brown’s propensity to go behind players’ backs and throw them under the bus in the papers, has egged on “Brown v. Marbury” from the get-go. They are daily beat writers who need gossip material. While LB played into it right away, Marbury at least waited until now to speak out. The sad part is, Marbury, who was playing nothing short of outstanding before his shoulder injury, will be the fall guy for the Knicks’ failure of a season. The real culprit though, is neither Brown (who has been set in his coaching ways for thirty years) nor Marbury (who has been set in his style of play for 10+) but the guy who brought this team together, and the other guy who gave him the blank check to do so.

  14. Watching the fourth quarter/OTs last night was like watching a game on the last night of the regular season. Very strange feeling, especially on March 15th.

  15. MarcR, you da man. And everyone else who is smart enough to blame Larry. Everyone knows Marbury is a selfish, pouting, bitter prick. So is Spreewell, but you know what? You never heard a peep out of him, because Van Gundy, for all his faults (and he has a lot) is loyal to a fault. He keeps things in-house, and never goes to the press. Larry Brown is, in fact, a bad person. A coach installs a system that fits the talent, not the other way around. A coach has a regular (at least semi-regular) substitution pattern. Geez, Larry still doesn’t know who he wants to start! Why aren’t Frye and Lee playing at least 30 minutes a night? If Larry Brown is such a good coach who teaches kids to play the right way, why is Eddy Curry the same player he was in Chicago – because he still has the “chicago” in him? Please. Think about that – Larry denigrated a player on his own team to the press, destroyed what little confidence he had, all to insult another team’s coach? What is that?

    Marbury is as Marbury does. You know what you get with him and you know who he is. Larry is the only guy who doesn’t seem to get that.

    Larry’s entire 10 million salary this year has been a fraudulent conveyance, because he certainly isn’t a professional basketball coach this year.

  16. I don’t think Larry Brown is a “bad person” or anything, I just think the guy can be (like a lot of great coaches) a bit of a lout sometimes.

    My main point with Larry Brown is just that he should incur an equal share of the blame for this Knicks’ season (oh, okay, I actually think, excluding the owners, he deserves the second-most amount of blame for this Knicks’ season, well behind Isiah), and not get to be treated with kid gloves because he has such a good past.

  17. Take a look at Pete Vescey’s column today – he pretty much says what I said about Larry.

  18. Perhaps the most fascinating (and maybe encouraging) aspect of this entire, sad episode is the discipline the players have shown in simply not commenting on the situation. I have yet to see any unnamed locker room sources who have taken sides. (In fact I’ve seen more commentary from Detroit’s players than NY’s.) The other players seem to want absolutely no part of this and I can’t say as I blame them.

    I simply cannot imagine that the press hasn’t hit them up for comments to see how this is playing out in the locker room.

    As for Vescey’s commentary, well, when Peter Vescey weighs in on a debate about who is a more miserable human being it is surely a sign of the coming apocalypse.

  19. Maybe Vescey is more miserable than anyone…

    I liked Kenny Smith’s comments last night on TNT, when he said that Marbury’s mistake was “Feeding the Sharks” in the media instead of making his point through good play on the court.


  21. “As for Vescey?s commentary, well, when Peter Vescey weighs in on a debate about who is a more miserable human being it is surely a sign of the coming apocalypse.” -DC

    Yup. ^_^

    Man if it wasn’t for the evil overlord Murdoch, that loser would be out of a job. What a hack. BTW, Vescey started blocking my hatemail a week ago.

  22. NGLI-

    they should have gotten Vescey to play the chancellor charactor in “V for Vengence.”

    Oh, and love don’t hate ;-)

  23. Marbury has never made his team’s better? Last year the Knicks were 12 points better per 48 minutes with him on the court.

    He made the Knicks a lot ‘better’ — he just didn’t actually make them ‘good’. It’s not his fault Isaih doesn’t know how to put a team together.

    Think of the players Nash made better: Marion, Stoudemire, and Joe Johnson? Is this a joke? A point guard making other players better is a myth.

    They made Marbury pass to Kurt Thomas for 18-foot jumpers. And now that Nash passes to him, he’s still hitting occassional 18-foot jumpers.

    Meanwhile, all defense of Larry Brown’s coaching job this year has revolved around his track record (1 NCAA title, 1 NBA title, etc.), but to look at it objectively, it’s a downright clinic in coaching “the wrong way”.

    I think the criticism regarding Brown playing worst players first, not giving enough time to his rookies, and never setting on a set rotation has been exhausted.

    So, I leave us with a quote from the immortal New York leader, Casey Stengel, who knew a thing or two about being stuck in a bad situation: “Any manager that can’t get along with a .300 hitter is an idiot.”

  24. Starbury’s got problems. He talks about himself in the third person and in his mind he is the best point guard in the NBA. If anything can improve the team, we need to bring in a few more guards that like to shoot the ball. That would finally bring the team together as a cohesive unit.

  25. Not only do we finish last this year and have no draft pick to show for it.

    Our only rookie who Brown likes enough to play on a consistent basis is now going to go down.

    This right after Brown announces that he finally is going to begin to give the rookies a bit more time.

    Not only that but Frye has one of his best games in a long time.

    19 points 9 rebounds and 4 blocks before he went down.

    I’d imagine he would have finished with 23 12 and 4 before the night was over.

  26. Top 5 pick here we come!!

    Oh. Never mind.

    Theres always the lottery the season afterward. Greg Oden here we come!!

  27. The problem, Archos, is that the Bulls can switch draft picks with the Knicks next year.

    Who needs Greg Oden? We have “Baby Shaq” and his awesome 6 boards a game. And we have him locked up through the end of the decade, so there’d be no place for Oden to play.

    Well, there’s always the 2008 draft! Although by then of course Isiah will have traded the pick away for Bonzi Wells.

  28. Here’s a question: Did what Brown do help this team win any games?

    Here is another: Did Brown do what he did THINKING it would win any games?

    Here is the last question: If the coach involved was….say…Doc Rivers, would anyone on earth take Rivers’ side in this mud slinging?

    My answers to the Quiz?

    No, no, and certainly not.

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