Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Okay, sports fans, even though it goes against my better nature, I was going to write another piece excoriating James Dolan, Isiah Thomas, and anything to do with the New York Knicks’ part of Madison Square Garden. (Hey, the Rangers are only a point out of first place, so at least SOMEONE at MSG knows what they are doing!) I know it doesn’t do any good to rant and rail against Dolan—he doesn’t listen to anyone but Thomas anyway, so why waste the space?—but it’s somewhat cathartic, and basketball fans can sympathize. Let’s face it, whether you love the Knicks or hate them, you must realize that their position as league laughingstock does more harm than help to the NBA as a whole.

Just my luck, Mike Lupica wrote a piece in the New York Daily News today that sums up how I feel perfectly. For your edification, I thought I’d post it here. (By the way, I discovered this week that there are quite a few sports fans that dislike Lupica—can’t figure out why, since I think his sports opinions are usually dead on. If any Lupica-haters are reading this, it’d be great if you could weigh in on why you feel that way and enlighten me.)

Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday season!

For Knicks followers, change is fantasy

by Mike Lupica

James Dolan and Isiah Thomas have finally become a bad remake of a bad television show out of the past, the one known as “Fantasy Island.”

It really is just the two of them now, their own “Fantasy Island” off 33rd St. Except this isn’t some made up television show. This is the real thing, Dolan’s Garden. And with these people in charge, there is no chance at the kind of happy ending you used to get on television, just another season when the Knicks try to grub their way to a win total between 30 and 40, try to grub their way to the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Dolan and Thomas are the only two people left in town who believe Thomas knows what he is doing with the Knicks. We are only 20 games into this, and the biggest headline so far, other than blowout losses, is that Thomas can’t coach any better than he can general-manage.

Somehow this matters deeply to everybody at the Garden except Dolan. He doesn’t listen to his fans, he doesn’t listen to anybody, with the exception of Thomas, who constantly tells him things are just swell.

Dolan and Isiah lost again Monday night. Lost twice, in fact. The Knicks lost another basketball game, this one to the Mavericks. They got blown out for only a half this time, instead of for an entire game, which gave Thomas the chance to focus on a brief comeback at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, making it sound as if the Knicks actually had a chance to come all the way back and win.

Anybody who was there knows better, saw in the first half that the Mavericks could do whatever they wanted to the Knicks, whenever they wanted. It was fitting that when the Knicks did get the Mavs’ lead down to seven for the last time, they immediately committed a turnover without getting a shot to the iron, then saw Josh Howard drive right down the middle for a layup, even laying out Eddy Curry along the way.

So that was the second loss of the day, after it was game, set, match for Dolan and Thomas against Anucha Browne Sanders once and for all, the official and humiliating end of her sexual harassment case against the two of them. Browne Sanders had already beaten them out of $11.6 million. But Dolan and Thomas, together always, vowed to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court if they had to. Monday that all went away and Dolan had to write her a check.

Even then neither he nor his basketball coach had any grace.

At the fantasy Garden, Dolan issued a statement that said he paid only because NBA commissioner David Stern made him. Said the whole thing was a miscarriage of justice. Thomas once again said he was innocent. Which means that Dolan’s statement really should have read this way:

The commissioner has no idea what’s he’s talking about, but I’m paying her, anyway.

Of course. At the fantasy Garden, Dolan and Thomas are always right, everybody else is wrong. At the fantasy Garden, a failed comeback is always more significant than falling behind by 20 points in the first place. At the fantasy Garden, the coach gets into it with some fans near the Knicks bench and when called on that afterward in the interview room, he can’t even tell the truth about that.

He says he was just trying to focus his players.

Thomas loses two straight games to the 76ers, who hadn’t won two straight games all year, and after the second one, a 28-point loss at the Garden, he says, “We need better ball movement.”

And you scream at your television set, “From whom?” Which big ball mover is he talking about? Eddy Curry? Zach Randolph? Jamal Crawford? Stephon Marbury?

As always, in the dreamy world in which he and Dolan exist, you know he wants you to believe that this dysfunctional team put itself together. But that is what you do when you have run out of coaches to throw under the team bus to save yourself.

Thomas’ first big move, the one that will ultimately sink him, was to bring Marbury and his huge contract here. As soon as he did, he talked about all the expiring contracts he would soon have. Now, in a rather amazing irony, Thomas hopes to stick around long enough for Marbury himself to become one of those expiring contracts. Isiah Thomas has come full circle. While the Knicks just keep going in circles.

At the fantasy Garden, Dolan confuses stubbornness with loyalty. At the fantasy Garden, he compares Isiah Thomas to Glen Sather, someone who actually won and won big as a front-office guy before he got to New York.

At the fantasy Garden, Thomas hears people calling for him to be fired, night after night, and hears “passion.” So he doesn’t know what he is seeing at the Garden or what he is hearing. Knick fans treat him the way the jury treated him in that trial, which means they know he is the opposite of innocent.

Tuesday Thomas said this:

“I fight till I die. It’s not about giving up or quitting. To me it’s win or die. And I literally mean death. I don’t mean walk away, I mean death.”

As always, his own little world. His and Dolan’s. No one knows exactly what he means by all that big death talk. Knick fans just know the guy’s killing them.

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