Knicks officials and Stephon Marbury will collide in an arbitration hearing Tuesday in Manhattan in an attempt to resolve the $400,000 in fines -- two game checks -- the team imposed when Marbury declined to play in games twice in late November.
There are far bigger problems in the world than whether Marbury gets paid for two more games, given that he's collecting a cool $20.8 million not to play at all this season. A (slightly) more pressing matter would seem to be whether Marbury and the Knicks can finally agree on a buyout so the disgruntled point guard can be waived by Sunday and thus be eligible for a playoff roster if he signed with a new team.
Despite a report in the New York Post that Marbury and Knicks president Donnie Walsh planned to meet face-to-face before the arbitration hearing in hopes of hammering out a buyout, this was news to Walsh when I spoke with him Monday. Walsh, of course, will attend the arbitration hearing, but said, "I don't have any meetings scheduled with anybody."
If Marbury is interested in returning this season and joining a playoff team, the sensible thing for him to do would be to push for the $400,000 in fines to be included in any buyout amount he's willing to negotiate. Thus far, neither side has budged and the Knicks have no urgency whatsoever to meet Marbury's demands. He's not playing for them either way, and his salary comes off the books after the season, making no further impact on their future plans.
(Actually, there is one last bit of impact, but no arbitrator can do anything about it. The Knicks still owe the Utah Jazz -- via Phoenix -- a first-round pick in 2010 from the ill-fated Marbury trade. As noted in my column on the Knicks' 2010 plan, this might actually be a good thing. That's one less big-ticket item on the payroll.)
Frankly, I can't imagine a team desperate enough to sign Marbury even for the prorated $1.3 million veteran's minimum, given heightened concerns about finances and the luxury tax -- not to mention the fact that Marbury hasn't appeared in an NBA game in more than 13 months. Marbury has said he has a side deal with the Celtics to join them once he's a free agent, but Boston officials have steadfastly denied interest.