Isiah Thomas looks to avoid that call from James Dolan
When New York Knicks owner James Dolan let go of Larry Brown and appointed General Manager Isiah Thomas as head coach, he did it with a vision in mind. He stated that Thomas had one year to show 'significant improvement' or he would join Brown on the unemployment line.
What that entails remains to be seen. For a team that won a scant 23 games a year ago, it can be 10 wins, or be in the playoff hunt late in the season or possibly having the team gel and improve on the floor, if not in the standings. Last season, Brown had everyone in the locker room guessing what their role was. In the starting line-up one night and on the inactive list the next was not uncommon. The players obviously did not have the same ideas that Brown did and never bought into his system.
With basically the same roster, this Knicks team put on a happy face in training camp and during the pre-season. Guards Stephon Marbury and Stevie Francis claim to be fine playing together. Second-year players Channing Frye, Nate Robinson and David Lee all were the picture of happiness having Brown replaced.
Thomas still has confidence in center Eddy Curry, who may be the wild-card in him coming back for another season. As the Knicks' General Manager, Thomas traded the team's number one draft pick to the Chicago Bulls for Curry. That selection ended up being the second overall pick, with which the Bulls chose power forward LaMarcus Aldridge of the University of Texas. Thomas proclaimed that Curry was a better player than anyone in the draft, and that he would make the trade again.
Curry had an inconsistent first season in New York. He looked like he could be a dominant center at times and had a very good percentage from the field. But he lacked intensity on the boards and defensively. The man-child needs to put more time in the gym and get into better condition if he is to win the battles against the Shaquille O'Neals and Ben Wallaces of the world.
Number one pick Rolando Balkman will bring intensity to the Knicks' defense and show the nay-sayers that he was deserved of his high selection at number 21. He can give the team what they were lacking last season and hopefully have some of his aggressiveness rub off on the players that resembled a saloon door on defense.
Marbury has not had the best of times in his home town. The Coney Island product is still a fan favorite, but must improve his game if he wants to do away with his legacy of never playing for a winning team. In his career, he has worn out his welcome in Minnesota, New Jersey and Phoenix. And those teams have improved the year after he left.
A team as young as the Knicks should be able to relate to Thomas more than the old-school Brown. But getting along with your coach does not always transcend into wins. If that is the case, the Knicks will be in the market for a new coach and GM in 2007.