Commentary

Isiah Thomas? They've gotta be kidding

The man who played a major role in destroying the Knicks is back as a consultant

Updated: August 7, 2010, 4:48 PM ET
By Shaun Powell | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

So when do the New York Knicks punch us on the arm, laugh out loud and say, "Fooled you there for a minute?"

When do they let us in on the joke?

Wait. You're telling me it isn't one? That it's real? That they actually reeled back in the guy who laid them out? That Isiah Thomas is not only on the payroll, but he's also whispering in the ears of James Dolan and Donnie Walsh and has a say in what players the Knicks will add or subtract?

Not sure what could be more unfathomable than this. Maybe the Jets hiring Rich Kotite as an executive assistant. Or the Mets reaching out to Steve Phillips for tips on how to stop the spiral. No, actually, those would be more believable and even more acceptable than the Knicks -- who spent the last few years cleaning up Isiah's mess -- giving him a voice again within the organization.

[+] EnlargeIsiah Thomas
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesEven though Isiah Thomas will remain behind the scenes in his new role with the Knicks, his presence will draw a lot of attention.

First, let's be fair to the man. He's a consultant, not the architect. He's staying in Miami to coach Florida International, not taking up office space at Penn Plaza. He'll most likely lend some insight from the college game, where he spends his time, and not from the NBA, from which he is further removed.

He won't be in charge of giving out contracts, so there's no fear of Eddy Curry II or another coming of Jerome James. All together now, Knicks fans: Exhale.

Oh, and another thing: Isiah will not make a single trade, which will come as devastating news to the other 29 NBA teams, who can stop hyperventilating and put the phone down now; there's no need to dial the Knicks.

Plus, he's not being re-groomed to take over for Walsh; that's Allan Houston, a big Dolan favorite.

But still, this low-level decision is a terrible one by the Knicks if only for PR reasons. The Knicks, after dragging a weary basketball city through a lost decade, need to make a clean break from their sloppy past. Their fans need hope, not reminders. Think forward, not backward. And, if nothing else, is the world running short on basketball consultants? Was Isiah the only person standing in the unemployment line when they went searching for help?

Even if the Knicks want to simply get their money's worth from Isiah, who must be tied to the club in some contractual way, they could've kept it quiet. You know, just take Isiah's calls and let him sit in on meetings, but don't tell anyone about it. That way, they're not a punch line today, not causing folks in the basketball world to bend over in laughter and not allowing their reputation to take another hit in the groin.

Why take a few steps backward, cosmetically speaking, after making a leap forward this summer? The Knicks didn't get the LeBron James grand prize but did enough to put themselves in playoff position. When he suits up, Amare Stoudemire will instantly become the Knicks' best offensive big man since Patrick Ewing, though that's not saying much. Raymond Felton is a significant upgrade at point guard and, at the very least, will do for the squad what Stephon Marbury (an Isiah guy) didn't. And there's reason to be intrigued by Anthony Randolph, who was buried in Don Nelson's doghouse in Golden State but is now possibly poised for a breakout season.

Once Curry's contract melts off the cap next summer, the Knicks can make another free-agent run, persuading Carmelo Anthony, born in Brooklyn and raised in Baltimore, to make the Garden his new home.

All of this was made possible when the Knicks, in essence, decided to adopt the opposite approach of Isiah when he had run of the Garden. Isiah never embraced the concept of shedding bloated contracts and positioning the Knicks for free agents. The payroll he inherited from Scott Layden was bad and he made it worse, rather than breaking it down and starting over. Basically, the Knicks are doing now what Isiah should've done years ago. That's just another reason his appointment as a consultant sounds like a cruel prank being played on tortured fans.

Obviously, Isiah is using the Knicks to help him land another GM job in the NBA, but why do the Knicks feel indebted to someone who was a symbol of a disastrous stretch for the franchise? Someone who registers so poorly among the fan base? Someone the Knicks, quite honestly, really don't need all that badly, even if he brings experience?

So what's the next outrageous move, the Giants weighing whether to bring back Plaxico Burress after he ruined a season and "shot" his career to hell?

What, you'll say that's not a joke, either?

Shaun Powell is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

Shaun Powell

ESPNNewYork.com
Shaun Powell is a former sports general columnist and NBA beat columnist for Newsday. He will contribute to ESPNNewYork.com with commentary related to NY area sports.

EDITORS' PICKS

ALSO SEE