Posted on: June 3, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 7:38 pm
Donnie Walsh came to New York determined to restore honor to the Knicks and steer them off a decade-long path of destruction toward one with the promise of success.
He will not get to finish the job. The theater of the absurd that is Madison Square Garden swallowed up one of the gentlemen of the sport Friday, sent one of the most respected basketball men in history fleeing for the exits.
The news Friday that Walsh will step down from his post as team president when his contract expires June 30 is a devastating blow to the franchise that he nearly singlehandedly resurrected. Gone is the man who cleared nearly $30 million in cap space, built a foundation around two superstar players, invited legends from the past back under the spotlight of the Garden, and gave Knicks fans hope that the days of dysfunction were over.
The story behind Walsh’s quiet negotiations for a new contract in recent months made Friday’s news all the more disturbing. Walsh, 70, was not seeking multiple years or millions at this stage of his basketball life. He was seeking autonomy over basketball decisions – the same autonomy that Garden chairman James Dolan publicly promised he would have when he was introduced in the spring of 2008 as the man who would save the Knicks from themselves.
"The more we talked about it, the more I realized I didn't want a multi-year deal," Walsh said. "I can understand why he'd want that. I just realized I probably wasn't the guy to go forward with."
As recently as midweek, sources said Walsh's situation was either going to result in a two-year extension -- possibly with a team option for a third year -- or Walsh moving back to Indiana, though not necessarily retiring. Dolan’s statement Friday described Walsh’s decision to leave as mutual, while Walsh said he had lost the "energy" required to do the job.
Walsh will stay on as a consultant and head up the search for his replacement, which immediately could focus on the two best candidates not tied to teams: former Trail Blazers executive Kevin Pritchard and former Hornets GM Jeff Bower. Former Cavs GM and current Spurs executive Danny Ferry also is expected to be considered, and a name to watch is Timberwolves assistant GM Tony Ronzone, whose strong international presence and close relationships with the stars of Team USA could be appealing to Dolan. Ronzone also has a working relationship with Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni through USA Basketball. D'Antoni has one year left on his contract.
Former Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien, whose consulting contract with the Knicks expires June 30, has to be considered a viable candidate.
Besides who will replace Walsh, the key issue hovering over this stunning development is what assurances he was seeking that he didn’t receive. Money was "never a big issue" for Walsh in the months-long discussions about his future, said a person familiar with the negotiations. In fact, despite widespread reports that Dolan insisted on a 40 percent pay cut for Walsh, the person familiar with the matter said it was Walsh who volunteered to take a substantial pay cut next season in anticipation of a lockout. His concern, the person said, was making sure the rest of the front-office staff -- whose contracts also expire June 30 -- would be taken care of during the work stoppage. Glen Grunwald, the senior vice president of basketball operations, will stay with the team as interim GM during the search for Walsh's replacement.
Throughout Walsh’s discussions with Dolan about his future, it was clear from multiple sources with knowledge of the talks that Walsh would not stay with the Knicks if A) he would not have final say over basketball decisions, or B) there was a chance he could be overruled by the Garden’s many agenda-driven outside influences. The most sinister of those was former team president Isiah Thomas, who remains in close communication with Dolan and in the MSG chairman’s circle of trust – despite running the franchise into the ground and turning the Knicks into a league-wide embarrassment.
“They were a joke for six years,” a rival team executive said Friday. “What Donnie has done for that organization, you’ve got to be kidding me. Come on. The whole world has paid attention to basketball in New York because of the guy – in a positive way.”
Thomas, whose attempted hiring as a consultant by Dolan last summer was nixed by league rules forbidding an NCAA coach to serve in such a role, is not coming back to run the Knicks, sources maintain. But he continues to have Dolan's ear, not to mention the desire to return to the Garden. And while Walsh dismissed the notion that Thomas had anything to do with his decision to leave, the idea of Thomas back-channeling decisions with Dolan would not be palatable to any executive of Walsh's experience and track record.
"The whole thing was going to come down to whether he was going to have autonomy," said a person with knowledge of the discussions. "That’s what this was about."
Walsh's replacement faces the challenging task of adding pieces to complement Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, the two stars Walsh landed with the cap space he spent 2 1-2 years demolishing. But Stoudemire and Anthony will combine to make $36.7 million next season; add Chauncey Billups' $14.2 million, and that figure rises to $50.9 million for three players. That's more than Miami's Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are scheduled to make next season, leaving the Knicks the ability to add only minimum-salaried players or those who'd except the mid-level exception -- if there is such a thing in the new collective bargaining agreement. And with the haul of assets Walsh had to give up to land Anthony, the Knicks have few short-term assets to offer in trades aimed at filling their needs for a defensive-minded big man, elite shooting guard, and eventual replacement at point guard for Billups.
That predicament, viewed through the prism of Walsh's departure, only fuels speculation that Dolan hijacked the Anthony trade talks and ordered Walsh to make a trade he didn't want to make -- not at that price, anyway. Walsh again deflected that notion Friday, but a person with knowledge of the trade talks between New York and Denver said Dolan played a prominent role in the deal.
"Donnie had a good hold of it, but I think Dolan had the intentions," the person said. "Dolan wanted Melo at all costs. It was 100 percent Dolan who was the one with an all-costs Melo type thing. And Donnie was saying, 'This would be a good trade, but let’s do it the right way."
He did everything the right way in three years rebuilding the Knicks, a job that now goes to someone else to finish.
Posted on: November 5, 2010 7:39 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2010 7:42 pm
NEW YORK -- The Knicks returned Friday night to Madison Square Garden, which has been cleared of asbestos -- but sadly, not all toxins.
The poisonous dust wafting throughout the World's Most Famous Arena was more collateral damage from the Isiah Thomas era, as the Hall of Famer's comments about wanting to replace Donnie Walsh when he retires from Thomas' old job were the topic du jour.
Walsh, who replaced Thomas in 2008 and needed two years to return the Knicks to respectability, said before the game he'd only read "a couple of pieces" of the ESPNNewYork.com interview with Thomas , but added, "I have no remarks about it. At all."
In a two-hour interview with the web site in Miami, where Thomas is head coach of Florida International University, Thomas said he thinks about running the Knicks again "every single day of the week;" that he may have been able to succeed where Walsh failed to lure LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to New York; and that he harbors fantasies of completing that vision as head of the Knicks in 2014, when the contracts Wade and LeBron signed with Miami this past summer expire.
The timing and content of Thomas' comments took team executives league-wide by surprise. But Walsh, seated in his customary spot at the scorer's table during pregame warmups, said he was "nonplussed." Asked about his relationship with Thomas, Walsh said, "I don’t consider Isiah a guy that’s not my friend, if that’s what you’re asking me. I always treat him like a friend."
Asked about Thomas raising the specter of his retirement, Walsh, 69, said, "I think when I hear retirement, I think it’s a choice that I make. But I’m not answering that question. I have nothing to say about the comments that were made today by Isiah. I have nothing to say."
Walsh, who has this season plus a team option left on his contract, was asked about the oddity of Knicks fans once again talking about Thomas -- even as Walsh has repaired the Knicks' roster, payroll, and image.
"Well," Walsh said, "I'm not."
Posted on: November 1, 2010 8:54 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2010 12:45 am
By not completing a trade for Carmelo Anthony before the start of the season, the Nets knew they were faced with a calculated risk. What could’ve been a coup for them – the Nuggets being awful out of the gate and Anthony making the situation untenable for coach George Karl – hasn’t happened. But something else has gone the Nets’ way as they’ve continued to keep the trade talks alive.
Derrick Favors, the centerpiece of a four-team deal sending Melo to New Jersey that fell apart last month, has shaken off a poor preseason and made important strides toward proving that he’s worthy of inclusion in a franchise-shaping transaction like the one Denver is considering. It’s only three games, but the No. 4 overall pick is shooting 58 percent from the field while averaging 10.3 points, 10 rebounds and only one turnover per game. His talent is raw, and his defensive instincts are nonexistent. But at the very least, Favors hasn’t done anything in this ridiculously small sample size to infect the Denver front office with any serious doubts.
One executive who has watched Favors went so far as to say, “His stock as skyrocketed,” which is true any way you look at it. (After the up-and-down preseason Favors had, one way to look at it is this: There was nowhere to go but up.) The Nuggets, according to sources, are still in wait-and-see mode. And they’ll be seeing plenty before the key date in this saga, Dec. 15, when summer free agents become trade-eligible.
One of the aspects of this decision that GM Masai Ujiri is evaluating is how competitive his team will be with Melo on board. The next two weeks will be telling, with five games against teams that made the playoffs in the West last season – Dallas (twice), the Lakers, Suns and Trail Blazers. Rival executives have speculated that in some ways, Ujiri’s job becomes more difficult if the Nuggets get off to a strong start. If that happens, it will be exponentially more difficult to sell an Anthony trade to the paying customers. Given that Anthony left no doubt that he’s leaving Denver one way or another when he told Yahoo! Sports last week, “It’s time for a change,” a catastrophic start to the season would’ve been a far easier environment in which to justify trading him.
Until then, the Nuggets, Nets and Knicks – Anthony’s preferred destination – are in limbo until more tradable assets flood the market in six weeks. Which gives us a chance to flood the market with the rest of this week’s Post-Ups:
• As interesting as it will be to watch the first head-to-head matchup between John Wall and Evan Turner, the top two picks in the 2010 draft, the more intriguing figure in the Wizards’ backcourt hasn’t played a minute yet this season: Gilbert Arenas. The artist formerly known as Agent Zero is likely a no-go against the Sixers Tuesday night as he prepares to undergo further tests on his injured right ankle. He’s already seen foot-and-ankle specialist Mark Myerson in Baltimore. While the Wizards hold out hope of making a Wall-Arenas backcourt work, the scant hope that Arenas and the $80 million he’s owed can be moved before the trade deadline requires Arenas to return to the court, be productive, show signs that his All-Star talent remains intact, and prove that he’s no longer a locker-room risk. None of that can happen until teams see a significant sample size of Arenas on the court.
• A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Denver’s interest in Portland swingman Nicolas Batum in a potential Anthony trade, but those overtures have fallen on deaf ears among the Trail Blazers’ brass. Portland isn’t about to include the talented, versatile Batum in a deal unless they’re getting Melo, which isn’t happening. Having said that, the Blazers have a tremendous asset in Batum if and when they get involved in any trade discussions as the deadline nears. Batum is not only affordable – he’s still on his rookie contract – but his value is much greater to faster-paced teams. With their grind-it-out style, the Blazers understand that they don’t take full advantage of Batum’s open-court abilities.
• Commissioner David Stern went easy on the Knicks over the Isiah Thomas fiasco, allowing Thomas and then the Knicks to announce the death of their failed attempt at a reunion via a blatantly illegal consulting arrangement. Stern could’ve really embarrassed Garden chairman James Dolan on that one, but elected to allow the Knicks and Thomas to clean up the mess themselves and then say there was no need for the league office to take action. Pending the outcome of a league investigation of alleged illegal workouts with draft prospects – some perpetrated under the Thomas regime as team president, according to Yahoo! Sports – the NBA office is not likely to be so kind this time around. While there is no precedent for forfeited draft picks for such violations, those alleged to have been committed by the Knicks in the Yahoo! report would be the most extensive and persistent on record. The league has hired outside counsel to investigate the allegations, and the Knicks plan to cooperate fully. All of this was simply another lesson that re-hiring Thomas in any capacity was a bad idea whether it was against NBA rules or not.
• I am justifiably puzzled by the Heat’s apparent pursuit of a point guard to get Miami’s offense running more smoothly until floor-spacer Mike Miller returns from injury. I could see the usefulness of a Derek Fisher-type in that role, but short of that, the Heat’s offense would run just fine with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James acting as interchangeable wings initiating the offense. Coach Erik Spoelstra could play that way now, if he wanted to, by benching Carlos Arroyo for James Jones – who would fill Miller’s role as the shooter until Miller returns. The problem with Jones is his lack of defense, but the rest of Miami’s defense is so smothering, I’m not sure Jones-for-Arroyo wouldn’t be worth examining. Something tells me the Heat will eventually realize that they don’t need a point guard, simply because they’ve already got two of them: Wade and LeBron. Besides, after signing the top three free agents on the market and turning the NBA upside-down this summer, it strikes me as gluttonous for the Heat to be out on the market pursuing more pieces. Dear Coach Riley: I think you’ve got enough.
UPDATED 12:45 a.m.
• Though most 2007 draft picks were not getting extensions by the midnight Tuesday ET deadline, the Suns agreed to a five-year, $22.5 million deal with Jared Dudley, said his agent, Mark Bartelstein. ESPN the Magazine reported that the Grizzlies signed Mike Conley to a five-year, $45 million deal. With hours to go before the deadline, only Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Dudley and Conley had received extensions amid uncertainty over a new collective bargaining agreement that makes it difficult to assess such players’ value.
• It cannot be overstated that the public truce between the Blazers and Rudy Fernandez is no indication that the Spanish star is happy spending this season – and next, now that his fourth-year option has been picked up – in Portland. While sources say Fernandez is resigned to the fact that he’s a Blazer for the foreseeable future, efforts by Fernandez and his agent, Andy Miller, to tone down the rhetoric will go a long way toward making the situation more fertile for a trade. If nothing else, the fact that Fernandez now has two years left on his contract makes him far less of a flight risk if he’s traded. The Blazers remain steadfastly opposed to giving Fernandez his wish and releasing him from his contract so he can return to Spain. So for now, Fernandez appears content to accept his minutes and role while allowing trade inquiries from other teams to progress naturally.
Tags: Al Horford, Berger's Post-Ups, Bulls, Carlos Arroyo, Carmelo Anthony, David Stern, Derrick Favors, Dwyane Wade, Evan Turner, Gilbert Arenas, Hawks, Heat, Isiah Thomas, James Jones, Jared Dudley, Joakim Noah, John Wall, Kevin Durant, Knicks, LeBron James, Mike Miller, Nets, Nicolas Batum, Nuggets, Rudy Fernandez, Thunder, Trail Blazers
Posted on: August 11, 2010 6:24 pm
Edited on: August 11, 2010 7:48 pm
NEW YORK -- Not surprisingly, Isiah Thomas and the Knicks aren't reuniting after all. The deposed team president will not take a consulting job with the Knicks, citing the NBA rules that forbid the arrangement.
After nearly three days of reviewing league policies that apply to the consulting arrangement Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan tried to arrange with Thomas, the Knicks and NBA officials reached the only conclusion possible: Thomas' job as basketball coach at Florida International clearly disqualifies him from working in any capacity for an NBA team. League rules strictly prohibit any coach, scout, executive, consultant or anyone else remotely employed in basketball operations with an NBA team from having any contact with draft-ineligible players. Such contact, obviously, is a key part of a college basketball coach's job.
"After speaking with Commissioner Stern and Knicks executives, it has become apparent that my new agreement violates certain NBA by-laws," Thomas said in a statement. "Because of this, I have decided to rescind my contract with the team.
"I have nothing but the utmost respect for Jim Dolan, Donnie Walsh, Mike D'Antoni and the entire Knicks organization, and I want to thank them for affording me this opportunity. One of the biggest regrets of my life is that the Knicks didn't perform up to the standards the fans had every right to expect while I was in charge. I take full responsibility for that. I was very much looking forward to this unique opportunity to help the organization do what I do best: find basketball talent. I wish the team nothing but success in the future."
The Knicks announced Friday that they were hiring Thomas -- whose scorched-Earth tenure as Knicks president and coach ended with the hiring of Walsh as team president in April 2008 -- as a consultant to advise the organization in a variety of ways. Among Thomas'
duties was to "provide valuable insight and analysis of young prospects from around the world."
As CBSSports.com reported Monday , such an arrangement was a clear violation of the NBA Constitution and By-Laws, which do not even allow basketball operations employees with NBA teams to publicly speak about high school, college or international players not yet eligible for the NBA draft -- much less have direct contact with them.
In announcing that Thomas was voiding his contract, officials with the NBA and the Knicks made efforts to minimize the public-relations embarrassment the team would endure as a result. This was obvious in the timing of the public announcements on the Thomas fiasco Tuesday: First, Isiah's statement. Then, a thumb-in-the-eye to Knicks fans from Dolan, who praised Walsh and D'Antoni in a release issued by the team but said he was "disappointed" he couldn't hire Thomas and that he will "continue to solicit his views."
"I continue to believe in his basketball knowledge, including his ability to judge talent," Dolan said of Isiah in a rare public pronouncement. "He's a good friend of mine and of the organization and I will continue to solicit his views. He will always have strong ties to me and the team. We wish him continued success at FIU. I also believe Donnie Walsh has done a terrific job since joining the Knicks and my tremendous respect for him has only grown since he's joined the organization. I'm confident that the work that Donnie, Coach Mike D'Antoni and their staffs have done this summer has the team poised for long-term success."
Finally, a classically subdued missive from Stern, who said in a statement from the league office that there was no need for him to take action since Thomas' contract had been voided. (Gee, I wonder why?)
"However, we have reminded the Knicks of NBA rules that prohibit team personnel, including consultants, from having contact with players not eligible for the draft," Stern said.
Anyway, the fallout from attempting to circumvent NBA rules -- or simply being unaware of them -- will be nothing compared to the public scorn heaped on the Knicks for even contemplating a reunion with Thomas in the first place. His tenure as team president and then coach featured ill-conceived trades (Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry), a sexual harassment lawsuit that cost Madison Square Garden and Dolan $11.5 million, and a salary-cap mess that took Walsh more than two years to clean up.
The announcement of Thomas' ill-fated reunion with the team also overshadowed a rare run of positive developments for the Knicks, who made credible pitches to sign free agents LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, landed power forward Amar'e Stoudemire instead, and have the flexibility to add a second max player through trades or as a free agent next summer. The biggest damage may have been inflicted on Walsh and D'Antoni, whose reputations were cast in a poor light by Dolan's belief that the team couldn't attract future free agents without Thomas' credibility as a Hall of Fame former player.
Sources say some elements of the Knicks' power structure -- i.e. Dolan -- believed after the failed bid for James and Wade that Thomas and his credibility with star players was needed to close the deal on future signings. Thomas, in fact, played un undefined role in the team's recruitment of Stoudemire, and also landed a meeting with James' associates during a failed 11th-hour bid to persuade the former Cav to join the Knicks. Walsh went out of his way to thank Thomas for his help in landing Stoudemire, a move that was met with head-scratching gazes in the media audience during Stoudemire's introductory news conference last month.
What has to scare Knicks fans even more than Dolan's continued belief in Thomas is the fact that Thomas could regain eligibility to work for the Knicks simply by quitting his job as Florida International coach. So it is possible that Knicks fans haven't heard the last from Isiah.
But then, who ever does?
Posted on: August 10, 2010 7:02 pm
NEW YORK -- We're barely a month removed from the biggest free-agent feeding frenzy in NBA history, and already the next wave has begun.
The Knicks' controversial attempt to hire Isiah Thomas as a consultant hasn't dissuaded candidates from pitching themselves as the right man for a job that team president Donnie Walsh has left vacant since he was hired two years ago -- a day-to-day GM who eventually would succeed him. The latest twist, according to sources familiar with the situation, has potential candidates angling to present themselves to Walsh and Garden chairman James Dolan as the man who is capable of delivering Carmelo Anthony as a free agent next summer.
The overtures have fallen on deaf ears with Walsh for two reasons, sources say: 1) Walsh has yet to receive clearance to hire a general manager to handle the day-to-day basketball operations, and 2) The respected, 69-year-old executive has grown tired of the free-agent recruitment game and the dishonest pitches that invariably come with it.
Walsh's desire to decompress from the untoward free-agent hysteria, however, didn't stop Dolan from hiring Thomas -- who was ousted and replaced by Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni in 2008 -- as a consultant whose primary duty will be to recruit free agents. Sources say the hiring may very well be struck down by the NBA, which has strict rules against team employees having contact with high school, college and international players not yet eligible for the NBA draft.
Thomas positioned himself to return to the Knicks by convincing Dolan that he played an important role in the team landing free-agent power forward Amar'e Stoudemire this summer. The Knicks struck out on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and decided they needed someone with Thomas' clout to ensure it wouldn't happen again.
But Thomas isn't the only current or former NBA executive trying to tout himself as the man who can persuade Anthony, a free agent next summer, to join Stoudemire with the Knicks. Part of that strategy, sources say, includes efforts on the part of at least one candidate to pitch himself to Creative Artists Agency -- the firm that represents Anthony -- as an addition to the Knicks' front office who could bring Anthony with him.
Walsh has had it on the back burner for some time to hire a lead assistant with a big enough profile -- and substantial enough resume -- to replace him when he retires. Such a move would create a rare spasm of continuity for an organization that had known nothing but change and turmoil prior to Walsh's hiring two years ago. Strong indications within the organization this summer have pointed to former player Allan Houston being groomed as Walsh's successor. Houston impressed Dolan and other team officials with his performance in an expanded role during the free-agency period this summer.
Walsh is two years into a four-year contract, and the Knicks must decide by March 31, 2011 whether to guarantee the final year of the deal.
Anthony, an ideal fit for the Knicks, already has told confidants this summer that he's eager to explore playing in New York. His dilemma is whether to turn down a three-year, $65 million extension offer from the Nuggets with only 10 months left in the current collective bargaining agreement. The new deal is expected to be much less lucrative for players. Sources say owners who were rattled by this summer's free-agent frenzy -- orchestrated by CAA, which represented James, Wade and Chris Bosh -- are determined to clamp down not only on player salaries in the new agreement, but also player movement.
Anthony's desire to play in New York is so strong, sources say, that those close to the three-time All-Star have scoffed at the efforts of executives touting themselves as being able to deliver him.
"Carmelo already wants to play in New York," one person with knowledge of his plans told CBSSports.com. "He doesn't need anybody to bring him there. He's a gunslinger. That situation is perfect for him."
Anthony's teammate, Chauncey Billups, said after Team USA practice Tuesday that he still doesn't know whether Anthony will sign the extension or test the free-agent waters next summer.
"If I was a betting man? I don’t know," Billups said. "Of course, I'm biased because I'm playing on the team that he’s playing on. But I'm optimistic that he’s going to come back and play for the Nuggets. I know he loves the city. Shoot, he’s been there since he was 20 years old. So I'm optimistic, but I don’t know. I wish I did, but I don’t."
Posted on: August 10, 2010 6:06 pm
Edited on: August 10, 2010 7:13 pm
NEW YORK -- Three members of the Team USA coaching staff weighed in Tuesday on the Knicks' controversial hiring of Isiah Thomas as a consultant, with Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim saying it crossed a line that shouldn't be crossed.
"If it’s good one place, then it’s good anywhere," Boeheim said after the U.S. men's national team scrimmaged on the city's West Side in preparation for the upcoming FIBA World Championships in Turkey. "You throw all that out there, and it wouldn’t be good. It doesn’t make much sense to me. I just don’t think it’s a good thing."
Krzyzewski, head coach of the U.S. team that opened a week-long training camp in New York, was more measured in his opinions on the Knicks' decision to employ Thomas, a former team president and currently an NCAA head coach at Florida International. Saying Thomas is his friend, Krzyzewski stopped short of saying the arrangement was unseemly, but made it clear that it wasn't something he'd do.
But the coach with the largest crowd of reporters around him was the Knicks' Mike D'Antoni, a Team USA assistant who will not be traveling to Turkey as he treats a back problem. D'Antoni struggled to put a positive spin on the return of Thomas to the organization that ousted him after an embarrassing tenure as both team president and coach. Aside from the obvious conflict of interest -- and strong possibility that the hiring is a violation of NBA rules -- some have painted Thomas' return as a reflection of how Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan views the performance of D'Antoni and team president Donnie Walsh.
Several times during an interview session with reporters on the practice court at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, D'Antoni repeated that Thomas' vaguely defined role within the Knicks' hierarchy is "not my area." D'Antoni said he learned of the decision "like everybody else" -- in a news release distributed Friday by the Knicks.
"He is a Hall of Famer and he’s one of the top 50 players in the game and he has a lot of credibility out there," D'Antoni said. "Donnie is very smart to be able to tap into him when he needs him, and if it’s an advantage to the Knicks, we’ll use it. That’s about all there is. There’s not a whole lot else to it."
Asked if the Knicks' attempt to bring Thomas back into the power structure from which he was ousted only two years ago reflected poorly on Walsh's standing with Dolan, D'Antoni said, "Donnie is running the show. He’s made some unbelievable moves up til now and we’ve got a nice young team coming on. I hate all the hoopla on the other end, but we should be focused on the upcoming season. That’s kind of what I’m focused on."
Dolan's decision to re-employ Thomas, according to sources, stemmed from the team's disappointing recruitment of top free agents this summer. After the team fell short in its pursuit of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade -- who united with Chris Bosh in Miami -- some elements within the organization became convinced that the team needed someone of Thomas' stature as a Hall of Fame player to close the deal with future free agents Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul or Tony Parker. Thomas, in fact, sold himself to Dolan as having played an important role in the Knicks' signing of Amar'e Stoudemire and also secured an 11th-hour meeting with James' representatives in a failed attempt to steer him to the Knicks.
But even if the Knicks attempted to narrowly define Thomas' role simply as a free-agent recruiter, sources have told CBSSports.com that the arrangement will nonetheless have a difficult time withstanding the test of the NBA rulebook. The league's constitution and by-laws explicitly forbid any NBA coach, scout, executive or consultant from having contact with draft-ineligible players -- an obvious requirement of an NCAA coach's job. League officials and lawyers are in the process of reviewing the legality of Thomas' hiring.
Boeheim, whose Syracuse team famously lost the 1987 NCAA championship game to Thomas' alma mater, Indiana, on Keith Smart's game-winning shot, doesn't need lawyers to tell him the arrangement makes no sense.
"You would maybe understand it if it was a guy that was retired and had tremendous success in the NBA and won something -- anything," Boeheim said. "And somebody said, 'Well, why don’t you just give us your sense of things.' I could see that. But I can't see this."
Posted on: January 21, 2010 12:46 pm
With Kobe vs. LeBron Thursday night in Cleveland, it's the perfect time to come up with a list of the top five individual rivalries in NBA history.
Michael Jordan makes the list, but only barely; he never had an individual rival or anyone close to his equal.
Kobe and LeBron make it, even though they haven't (yet) competed head-to-head for a championship. But as (arguably) the two best individual performers in the game -- albeit at different stages of their careers -- this is as good as it gets in modern times. (And not because of the puppet commercials.)
So with the following rough criteria -- competing for championships, relative difference in skill level, and the competitiveness of their teams -- here are my top five individual rivalries in NBA history:
1) Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell: This is a no brainer. The two dominant players of their generation competed for the Eastern Conference title six times and the NBA title twice. Russell forever lords over Chamberlain in the debate over who (other than Jordan) was the best player ever, due to his 11 championships compared to Chamberlain's two.
2) Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson: Their rivalry began in college with the seminal NCAA title game between Indiana State and Michigan State in 1979, which made the NCAA Tournament what it is today. It continued throughout their NBA careers with the Celtics and Lakers lifting the NBA to national prominence with three NBA Finals matchups in the '80s. Lakers vs. Celtics is all you need to say to conjure memories than span generations.
3) Bird vs. Julius Erving: Before we had Bird vs. Magic on the NBA stage, we had Bird vs. Dr. J. Their teams met in the Eastern Conference Finals in four of the first six years of the '80s, splitting the four meetings to determine who would go on to face the Lakers in the Finals (with the exception of 1981, when the Celtics faced the Rockets). Who among us (in 35-and-up demographic) didn't get his first video game experience on that grainy but thrilling "One on One" video game featuring Bird and Dr. J?
4) Kobe vs. LeBron: I put them here because of A) What is, and B) What might still be. LeBron is just entering his prime, when presumably he will begin stockpiling championships. Unlike Jordan at a similar stage of his career, LeBron has a formidable, immortal rival in Bryant who is still standing in the way. Kobe continues to play at a high level and has a chance to keep LeBron's championship trophy case barren for a couple of more years. (And they have the puppet marketing machine going for them, too.)
5) Jordan vs. Isiah Thomas: As inhabitants of the same conference, Mike and Zeke never squared off with a championship on the line. But Jordan's epic battles against Isiah's Bad Boy Pistons -- taking his lumps in the '89 and '90 Eastern Conference Finals before finally breaking through in '91 -- marked the emergence of one of the all-time greats. By supplanting Isiah and the Pistons, Jordan dispensed with the last true individual rival he would face en route to six NBA titles in eight years. Their rivalry also transcended the court; it was personal. Isiah's alleged "freezeout" of Jordan in the 1985 All-Star Game, Jordan's alleged efforts to sabotage Thomas' failed bid to be included on the 1992 Dream Team, and the visceral hatred that exists to this day between Jordan's long-time agent, David Falk, and Thomas makes this a must in my top five.
Posted on: April 13, 2009 7:28 pm
Coaching Florida International's men's basketball team. I couldn't think of a more perfect job for Isiah Thomas.
Golden Panthers, congratulations on providing one of basketball's most pre-eminent survivors with a golden parachute that suits him.
What could be better for a Hall of Famer who's way too young to retire, but who has nothing else to do? What could be better than a job with no state income tax? A job located in one of the prime weather locations in the universe? A job in which you can shape young skulls full of mush with tales of your glorious past? A job in which you can flash your NCAA and NBA championship rings, speak on a daily basis about playing for Bob Knight and Chuck Daly, and romanticize the good ol' days with the Bad Boy Pistons?
If it happens -- and some key people who still employ Thomas with the Knicks honestly don't know -- this makes perfect sense. A completely inconsequential job for one of the greatest ever to dribble a basketball. Bravo!
It's amazing how many times athletic directors and NBA general managers recycle coaches without realizing or admitting they're doing it. How many times have we seen it? A fresh start for a coach/former player who wore out his welcome elsewhere. I'd point to Rollie Massimino at Cleveland State years ago, but for all I know, Rollie will trump that with another job this spring.
I am not a member of the Isiah is Evil club. Not in the least. I barely know the guy, even though I attended the same college he did and covered him on almost a daily basis for an entire NBA season. He was one of my favorite players when he played. But I can call B.S. when I see it, and this is a B.S. job if I've ever seen one.
Good for him. I love when absurd things happen and everyone knows it's absurd and the people who make the absurd hire and/or accept the absurd job pat each other on the back in the very sincere/emotional/heartfelt/absurd press conference.
And if I'm the Knicks, I'm wondering the following: Does this mean we don't have to pay him anymore?