Commentary

Isiah headed for hot seat Tuesday night at MSG

Originally Published: November 19, 2007
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Isiah Thomas said the last time he spoke with Knicks owner James Dolan was Saturday, although it was not clear if that discussion came before or after New York's humiliating 32-point loss to the Denver Nuggets.

"We said hello," said Thomas, the Knicks' coach and president, after practice Monday before abruptly breaking off his interview with reporters and ducking out the door.

Chances are that Dolan and Thomas will speak again at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday after the Knicks are finished playing the Golden State Warriors, and the question on everyone's minds -- especially if the Knicks drop another game to extend their losing streak to seven -- will be whether Thomas is finished with his nearly four-year tour at the helm of the Knicks.

"No," Thomas replied matter-of-factly when asked if he was worried about his job security less than 30 games after he was given a long-term extension by Dolan late last season.

In the 28 games since that extension was announced, Thomas is 6-22.

"It's very strong," Jamal Crawford said of the level of support for Thomas among the players. "He brought all of us in, and we're all very loyal to him."

Said Eddy Curry: "I haven't talked to anybody individually in a 'What do you think of Isiah?' type of thing. So I'm still in the same place -- trying to win a game. It's still early, but the media's going crazy, which is making us go crazy. You just have to block everything out and get one game."

The comments of Curry and Crawford after practice Monday were noteworthy because they, along with Stephon Marbury, were called out by Thomas and told to exert themselves more on defense during the plane ride to Phoenix a week ago that set off this latest firestorm. Neither Crawford nor Curry responded as Marbury did, going AWOL on the team for a day. Both Crawford and Curry were reportedly among the majority of players who voted against allowing Marbury to play the next night in Los Angeles, where Thomas decided to reject his players' calls to bench the guard and instead used him for 33 minutes. Curry said the team has not yet had -- nor has scheduled -- a players-only meeting to discuss the root of the issues that have put their coach's job in jeopardy so early in the season.

Marbury has continued to come off the bench since then behind the ineffective Mardy Collins, and if he's coming off the bench again Tuesday night against Golden State (Thomas said "we'll see") he'll likely be the one -- and not Thomas -- who will bear the brunt of the fans' frustrations. This will be the Knicks' fans first chance in more than a week to weigh in with their collective opinion on where the team stands.

On the eve of training camp when Dolan and Thomas were found liable for sexually harassing a former team executive, Madison Square Garden insiders insisted that the trial would have zero effect on Thomas' job status, though they cautioned that if the basketball side of the equation was shaping up as another losing proposition, anything was possible.

Well, here we are on the verge of the 10th game of the season, and a loss Tuesday would drop the Knicks' record to 2-8. The Knicks fly after the game to Detroit for a game Wednesday against the Pistons, and logic dictates that it's questionable whether Dolan even allows Thomas to make it aboard the airplane if the Knicks get blown out in their own building and the Dolan Slumpfactor (how far Dolan slumps down in his courtside seat) edges toward double digits on a scale of 1 to 10.

Of course, Dolan may prefer to wait an extra day -- especially if another hammering happens Wednesday night in Auburn Hills, in what may be Isiah's last moments on an NBA court.

So if we are indeed in the twilight of the Thomas era, which by all appearances is at hand, we should take a look at what may lie ahead.

For the interim, the easiest thing for Dolan to do would be to hand the coaching duties over to Herb Williams, and Glen Grunwald is already the one doing most of the heavy lifting in the front office. All eyes would then turn to Los Angeles, where Phil Jackson has said he plans to decide soon whether to accept a two-year extension to remain with the Lakers.

If Jackson declines it, and if the Knicks are trounced in their next two games, and if Thomas is fired …

Well, that's a lot of ifs. And if the Knicks begin to turn things around Tuesday, all this is moot. But if things go poorly at the Garden, it ain't gonna be a pretty Tuesday night. The thin ice that Isiah's already skating on will crack a little further, and it then becomes a question of when exactly he'll fall through.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.

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