Posted on: July 23, 2011 2:19 pm
Edited on: July 23, 2011 4:49 pm
By Matt Moore
We live in an immediate society. The internet, social media, the ever-accelerating news cycle, everything means that the next 30 seconds is 10 times more important than the last 30 seconds regardless of what actually happened in the past 30 seconds. As a result, we lose perspective on what stands truly relevant from the past. The NBA is no exception. So in an attempt to merge the two worlds (since, as a blog, we love/hate/want to be BFFs within the next 30 seconds), we'll be bringing you a look at players past and present, in relation to one another.
We begin with Isiah Thomas and Chris Paul.
Before Isiah Thomas' name was synonymous with the failure of the CBA (that's the Continental Basketball Association in this case, though you could argue that some of Thomas' later contracts offered might suggest he had something to do with this lockout), sexual harassment and the utter ruin of the New York Knicks as a professional basketball franchise, he was an incredible basketball player. He was an elite point guard from the moment he stepped on the floor at St. Joseph High School. He won a NCAA Championship at Indiana under Bob Knight (take a second and think about those two personalities sharing a floor). In his sophomore year, Thomas averaged 16 points and 5.8 assists while shooting 55 percent from the field.
So that's a pretty good start.
You know how Blake Griffin made the All-Star team as a rookie, and it was a really big deal this year. Thomas made it in '82 when it wasn't quite so surprising, but Thomas also started, scoring 12 points with 4 assist and 3 steals. From there on, Thomas was an All-Star each year until his retirement in '93. He won the title in 1990 and 1991 with the "Bad Boys," even downing Michael Jordan's Bulls in the Conference Finals. But those are just figures. To weigh Thomas' impact, much like to weigh Chris Paul's, you have to actually go back and watch.
But even the highlight clips don't really show the kind of control Thomas had on the game. At only 6-foot-1 (that's right, the same size I have mocked Kemba Walker for being continually ... every time I read that height I get queasy to a ridiculous degree), Thomas was in such firm athletic control of his opponents, he was always one step in front of them, always in charge. Players had a remarkably difficult time forcing Thomas into doing anything he didn't want to do. His control and precision were offset by his scoring range, which was pretty much omnipresent. It was this control that allowed him to make defenders seem as if they were just trying to keep up with big brother.
Paul, on the other hand, never won a championship at Wake Forest, though he was just as highly lauded for his intensity and performance. In Paul's first six seasons, he's established himself as the best point guard in the league (Derrick Rose fans, this is qualifying point guards under the traditional role; Derrick Rose isn't a point guard, he's Derrick Rose, which is more than a point guard). Paul's ability to make his teammates better is arguably higher than that of Thomas. The comparisons between the two relative to Paul's stage of his career are eerily similar.
From Basketball-Reference.com (click to enlarge):
Thomas scored more, but needed more shots. He had more assists, but had a higher usage. Essentially, were Paul to be as assertive with the ball as Thomas was at this point, his numbers would be even or better than Thomas, more than likely. But of course, injuries play a part. Paul has not only missed significant time with injuries since the infamous 2008 series with the Spurs that very nearly landed Paul in his first Western Conference Finals, but has admitted that he's holding back.
In terms of style, Paul is much more beatific with his approach. His passes are delicate floaters, while Thomas' were primarily either lasers or high arcing bombs. Paul's 3-pointer is a dagger, while Thomas was more of a hoist. Thomas preferred the mid-range jumper while Paul's short-elbow floater is stunning in its lethality, when he turns to it. But there are vital comparisons. Both Paul and Thomas possess the intense desire to win at all costs that helped Thomas win the title. Of all the new breed of superstars, particularly those in the clique of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, etc., Paul's drive to win is perhaps fiercest. It was Thomas' intensity, or arrogance, depending on which side of the aisle you're on, that led to his feuds with various stars of his era. He and Paul share that, a willingness to tussle with nearly anyone. It is a relentless gear that never allows them to back down from anyone, while always then turning a smile to the camera. But Thomas' battles were almost personal, more vicious. While Thomas has, despite his numerous, nearly incalculable public relations disasters, been well-spirited toward his former rivals in retirement, at the time, it was Thomas against the world.
Paul's approach has been different. He's much more calculating in his approach. He's willing to befriend anyone that will help him, and makes nearly no enemies. Paul is beloved by everyone. He's a darling of the league. A brilliant player who serves as a tremendous member of his community, an All-Star who pals around with the two-time MVP. He's everything to everyone, where Thomas was popular but also controversial.
In the end, Thomas gets the edge on Paul thanks to, you know, the championships. But Thomas won those when he was 28-29, two to three years older than Paul. CP3 has time. He has the mindset, the skills, and the leadership. He just needs the opportunity. As he showed us in the playoffs this year, Paul just needs a team good enough to support him and allow him to unleash that wolf in sheep's clothing he's often portrayed as (HT: Free Darko).
Posted on: July 14, 2011 3:07 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 3:56 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
Jalen Rose and Isiah Thomas haven't exactly been super-popular this year. Rose made headlines for his comments in the 30 for 30 documentary on the Fab Five about Duke and its players based on his feeling as a teenager on the racial implications for playing there. Isiah Thomas is widely credited with forcing the king's ransom for Carmelo Anthony that gutted the Knicks current and future, despite denials from James Dolan and Donnie Walsh on his involvement. Oh, yeah, and he's still Isiah Thomas.
But Rose and Thomas are both doing something that's pretty special. Rose, moved by the conditions in inner-city Detroit, has started a school, the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. It's initial class will host 120 students, chosen by lottery. But Rose is hoping to quadruple that by 2013, he told the AP. To do so, in addition to his golf fundraiser, he reached out to another Detroit staple, Thomas, who donated money to help open the school.
"I think what Jalen is doing is great, so I'm trying to help him get the project off the ground with some of my resources," Thomas said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "The more athletes can re-connect with their communities the better off we'll all be. Some of us do a lot, and some of us don't do enough."via Rose inspired by Detroit's plight to open school - USATODAY.com.
So for two guys who have had pretty bad years with public relations (and this is before Rose's arrest for DUI), this is a tremendous story. Say what you want about each man's words and decisions, but this is an indication that they're willing to try and make a real difference for people who need it.
A nice story while the billionaires and millionaires haggle over billions.
Posted on: June 6, 2011 3:01 pm
Edited on: June 7, 2011 6:49 am
Posted by Royce Young
There is an assumption that Isiah Thomas will be returning to the Knicks in some regard, after Donnie Walsh didn't reach a contract extension with the team. Thomas remains involved in some manner with the team as a consultant-but-not-a-consultant type of thing.
He's already said he won't rejoin the team in an official capacity, but via Sports Radio Interviews, Thomas was asked about his future with the team since again, most seem to doubt he will rejoin the club in an official capacity.
Do you want to be back with the New York Knicks organzation?As with anything in sports, you can only take Thomas at his word. He says he's not returning to the Knicks and because of the PR nightmare it would create, you've got to believe it. Isiah Thomas isn't going to be the Knicks next GM.
He's said before that he wants to return to the NBA at some point, but he's not dumb. He understands that a return to the Knicks wouldn't be good for him or the organization. Not with all the baggage that's there. But he does have a major leg up there because of his relationship with Dolan. Even with that, Thomas acknowledged how difficult a return would be. He doesn't rule out the chance to return in some capacity, but he's sure he doesn't want to be president and especially not the coach.
Sleep easy, Mike D'Antoni. And Knicks fans.
Posted on: June 3, 2011 8:06 pm
Isiah Thomas reportedly says he will not re-join the New York Knicks management staff. Posted by Ben Golliver.
In a surprise move on Friday, New York Knicks owner James Dolan and president Donnie Walsh announced that they had "mutually agreed" that Walsh would not be back as president next season, instead shifting into a consulting role.
Breathe easy, Knicks fans: Walsh's departure doesn't mean that former Knicks president, and noted Dolan confidante, Isiah Thomas is coming back for a sequel.
Indeed, ESPNNY.com reports on Friday that Thomas has ruled himself out.
"I'll only say that Jim and I are great friends," Thomas said, "and I will always try to help him help the Knicks. If he wants me to help, I'll be there for him.
The Thomas years were filled with bloated contracts, strange trades and sexual harassment allegations. Clearly, no one wants to go back down that road.
Posted on: June 3, 2011 2:46 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
On a conference call Friday afternoon after it was announced he would be leaving his position as President of the Knicks, Donnie Walsh pinpointed age and the need fro the President going forward to work under a multi-year deal as the primary reasons why he would be departing the Knicks after three years.
"Jim (Dolan) and I started working on some sort of extension that would be a multi-year deal. The more we talked about it, the more I realized I wouldn't want a multi-year deal. I can understand why he'd want that. I just realized I probably wasn't the guy to go forward with."
Walsh, ever the company man and a man who does business "the right way" denied reports that autonomy was an issue between he and Dolan, with rumors implying Dolan wanted more control over decision-making than Dolan was comfortable with. Still, there were things Walsh said to suggest everything is not peachy within MSG.
"I basically had a good relationship with Jim," Walsh said. "He treated me very well." Walsh spoke about how it's commonplace for owners to be involved in negotiations like what occurred during the trade negotiations for Carmelo Anthony. He denied that Dolan's involvement led in any way to his departure.
"No, it had nothing to do with it. I don't understand why people make a deal about an owner getting involved in a negotiation. I was called and told by (Dolan) before the deal, 'I can't make this decision. This is your decision.'"
Walsh spoke highly of the organization, the fans, his staff, and Mike D'Antoni, saying he had spoken with the Knicks head coach prior to the announcement and given him his support to "finish the job."
As far as the future of the Knicks, Walsh spoke often about "filling in the blanks" or "gaps" on the Knicks' roster with players to support the two franchise superstars, Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. He said he will relocated to Indiana but maintain an apartment in New York in his role as a consultant to help with "whatever (he) can."
Most forcefully, Walsh denied Isiah Thomas' involvement in the situation.
"I don't think Isiah Thomas had anything to do with basically anything I'm doing right now. I've always had a relationship with Isiah, I'm not going to give that up because everyone's talking and writing about it. I haven't seen Isiah in a long time."
The New York Daily News reports that part of the offer from James Dolan to Walsh to stay on including a 40 percent pay cut.
Posted on: June 3, 2011 11:32 am
Edited on: June 3, 2011 12:51 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
In an absolutely stunning development, the New York Knicks announced Friday that Donnie Walsh would be leaving his position as President of Basketball Operations. Read more on the Knicks' decision from Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, who says the Knicks are facing dark days ahead without Walsh. The Knicks' statement from owner James Dolan:
Thomas and Grunwald of course go all the way back to the University of Indiana where they were co-captains on the 1981 NCAA Championship team. Then, while Isiah Thomas was still leading the hopes and dreams of Torontos expansion franchise, he hired Grunwald and after Thomas headed south of the border, Grunwald was left to run the show. Grunwald spent seven seasons with the Raptors and while his contract as GM was not renewed after the Raptors 2003-04 season, he was responsible for many of the Raptors "highs" including three consecutive playoff appearances at one point. However even after his dismissal from the Raptors, Grunwald remained in Toronto taking a job with the Board of Trade and it seemed like Grunwald had found his new calling. But Isiah Thomas move from the front-office back to the bench where he will coach the Knicks this upcoming season changed all that. Thomas decided he needed some front-office help and reached out to his former right-hand man.via The Strange Tale of Glen Grunwald - Raptors HQ.
Grunwald and Thomas' connection is obviously strong, as evidenced by the Knicks' statement from Thomas upon his hiring in 2006:
“Glen is a skilled NBA executive whose expertise will be a great asset to the New York Knicks,” Thomas said. “I know him well from our days as co-captains on the 1981 NCAA Championship team at Indiana University and I hired him in Toronto, where he helped assemble a roster that made three consecutive postseason appearances. I consider him to be a quality evaluator of talent and a skilled communicator.”via KNICKS: Knicks Hire Glen Grunwald.
The obvious question is whether this move leads to a return by Thomas into power of the Knicks. Thomas was rumored to have been the deciding voice in the Knicks' quest to acquire Carmelo Anthony, prompting Dolan to override Walsh and surrender the house, the car, and the baby stroller to get Melo. When asked if Walsh minded Thomas' possible influence on Dolan after the trade, Walsh said he couldn't care less. From CBSSports.com's Ken Berger:
What role did Isiah Thomas have in the Knicks’ successful pursuit of Carmelo Anthony?via Walsh doesn't care about Isiah's role - CBSSports.com.
A May 2010 New York Post report indicated that Grunwald's contract was expiring and he may not even return. Now he's in charge of the Knicks' decision making on personnel until a new GM can be put in place. It's possible Grunwald won't have any impact on decision making, in light of the nearly certain lockout on July 1st. By the time the labor dispute is settled, a new regime could be in place. Still, the move reeks of a storm cloud moving in called Isiah.
The decision also stands out as the Knicks have non-Thomas affiliated personnel who could have taken over in Alan Houston, former Nuggets' exeutive Mark Warkentien, and John Gabriel. Grunwald is said to be a shrewd talent evaluator, but his decision history over the last decade leaves quite a bit of concern.
Ken Berger reports on why this move may have gone down and it's a one-word answer: control.
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.via Wash's departure means dark days back for Knicks - CBSSports.com.
Posted on: June 1, 2011 11:26 am
Edited on: June 1, 2011 11:27 am
Posted by Matt Moore
The best thing about Scottie Pippen saying LeBron might one day surpass Jordan as the greatest ever is that now every single person ever affiliated with the NBA in any meaningful capacity is being asked about it, often by reporters. We have such a moment today where Isiah Thomas was asked to weigh in on it. Thomas and Jordan never got along, not really, but the former Detroit Bad Boy and Knicks disaster of a GM has Jordan's back. From ESPN New York:
“I think LeBron has a chance to eclipse Jordan if he continues to improve his game, but where they are right now, you still have to take Jordan as being the better player,” Thomas said. “Now, six years from now, if LeBron continues to add different facets to his game, then maybe you can have that argument and you can have that debate.via Isiah: Not sure if LeBron will ever surpass MJ - Knicks Blog - ESPN New York.
The problem here is we can't really look into the future and see how things would shake out. We've got no way of knowing if James is going to continue his climb to the apex of his career, and add a single, let alone multiple titles. We can only really appreciate what James is doing right now. Everyone gets caught up in comparisons and you'll never beat history except when someone else is being compared to you. Really, we should just take advantage of being able to watch a great player functioning at a high level. Unless he fails. Then we'll mock him. Because that's how this works.
It should be noted that it shouldn't surprise anyone that Thomas lacks the capacity to see down the road, to look into the future and see how things will be. Because that's pretty much how he ran the Knicks. Give guys with questionable work ethic tons of money and don't worry about what will happen in four years with the size of those contracts. If Thomas could, then maybe he'd acknowledge that he's in part responsible for the upcoming lockout.
But hey, he's got Mike's back!
Posted on: May 5, 2011 3:39 pm
Posted by Royce Young
There's always been reason to believe Isiah Thomas wasn't done with the New York Knicks. He's owner James Dolan's friend, Dolan tried to hire him as an "advisor" last summer and reportedly, Thomas was actively involved in bringing Carmelo Anthony to the Big Apple.
But it's going to end there, according to the New York Post.
Current president Donnie Walsh is close to signing a contract extension and Dolan has informed Walsh that Thomas won't be brought back in any capacity. That has always appeared to be a contentious thing within the Knicks front office was who actually had power. The Melodrama was a big example of that.
As the Post reports though, Walsh is "expected to be granted permission to hire his successor as a central part of a new agreement that should be announced shortly."
If you've somehow forgotten, Thomas essentially destroyed the Knicks' cap situation, overpaid everyone, got himself involved in a lawsuit and set the franchise back a good five years. Walsh has resurrected basketball at Madison Square Garden by getting New York's cap under control while also accumulating a good amount of young talent.
There's absolutely no reason to flirt with Thomas again and ignore Walsh. Sounds like Dolan is finally making a very good call here that's in the best interest of his organization and not his personal ones. Not that there isn't some curiosity justified by wondering why it took this long to finally ditch Thomas and commit to Walsh though. But hey, better late than never.
Walsh has reportedly been keen on former Knicks guard Allan Houston as a possible replacement, though I'm sure the Knicks will at least check out the current market. The good news is though, Isiah Thomas won't be one of them.