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Ford hammering Isiah

Discussion in 'NBA Dish' started by DeAleck, Jul 2, 2004.

  1. DeAleck

    DeAleck Contributing Member

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    Thursday, July 1, 2004

    Mission accomplished for Isiah? Hardly

    By Chad Ford
    ESPN Insider


    In February, Isiah Thomas was the conquering hero, virtually standing before the cheering New York media with a big "Mission Accomplished" banner waving in the background.

    In a series of blitzkreig-like moves, Isiah transformed a team that many thought was unchangeable almost overnight. Charlie Ward, Howard Eisley, Antonio McDyess, Keith Van Horn, Clarence Weatherspoon and Maciej Lampe were out in the space of eight weeks. They were replaced with big names like Stephon Marbury, Penny Hardaway, Tim Thomas and Nazr Mohammed.

    Isiah was the anti-Scott Layden. He was articulate, decisive and loved the spotlight. The Knicks made a nice push at the end of the season and improbably finished in the No. 7 playoff spot in the East. The Knicks were getting better!

    Now read the fine print.

    Isiah has moved the Knicks from the level of bad to mediocre and locked them there with a quagmire of long-term, untradeable contracts and players whose games don't really match.

    His effort to win the hearts and minds of the New York fans and media was a short-term home run. Long term? Expect the NBA equivalent of Vietnam -- an unwinnable war with heavy losses.

    The only thing missing might be the Michael Moore documentary.

    Isiah was expecting to walk into free agency and convince a player like Rasheed Wallace he was the missing piece of the puzzle.

    Instead, the Knicks likely will be left with a couple of bit players.

    "We have to sell the Knicks, and we have to sell our vision moving forward," Thomas said. "The city sells itself, but the players want to see what strategies you have in place and is this a place you can build a dynasty and win for a long time. That's the story we'll be telling."

    At best, Jamal Crawford can become the sixth guard in the backcourt. Kobe Bryant isn't walking through that door. Neither is Shaq, Kenyon Martin or any other superstar to grab headlines in the daily tabs.

    The Knicks' flexibility is gone. In the process of cleaning house, Isiah played almost all of his cards. He used expiring contracts and rookies to obtain good players with max contracts. They're essentially bound to the team that Isiah has built. Is it enough to save the Knicks from another five years of mediocrity?

    That's the question every New Yorker should be asking right about now.

    Now that Isiah has painted the Knicks into a corner, can the players he added paint their way out? Here's a look at what to expect as Insider continues its summer blueprint series.

    Knicks Summer Blueprint

    DRAFT: The Knicks traded their first-round pick to Phoenix (which in turn sent it to Utah) in the Stephon Marbury deal. Isiah isn't into rebuilding, and having a mid-first-round pick wasn't really going to make much of a difference anyway ... well, sort of. The Jazz used the pick to draft Kirk Snyder, who just so happens to be the type of tough, gritty, do-it-all backcourt player the Knicks could use.

    The Knicks had one second-round pick, and used it to add Trevor Ariza. It was a good call. Had Ariza stayed at UCLA, he could have become a lottery pick in two years. The Knicks just got him on the budget plan.

    To Isiah, moving the pick (along with two other coveted young assets, Maciej Lampe and Milos Vujanic) was a slam dunk. The only thing Isiah seems to have inherited from Scott Layden was the belief that you can't rebuild in New York. It could haunt them down the road, however. Lampe showed signs of real life toward the end of last season, and Vujanic is still considered one of the best point guards in Europe. With those two and Snyder, the Knicks' roster would be set for long-term renewal. As it stands now, Mike Sweetney and Frank Williams must hold down the developmental fort.

    FREE AGENCY: The Knicks aren't losing any significant players to free agency this summer. At one point, it looked like forward Kurt Thomas would bolt, but the team signed him to a four-year extension this spring. The team is obviously capped out, leaving just its mid-level exception to play with.

    Everyone knows Rasheed Wallace was Isiah's primary target this summer. However, it seems very unlikely Wallace will settle for the mid-level in New York when he can get nearly twice that in Detroit and play on a better team with a coach who seems to be his biggest fan. That's tough to compete with.

    Thomas' new primary target appears to be Crawford. The Knicks are showing strong interest in the Bulls' guard, but it isn't clear why he'd want to play in New York. The Knicks' backcourt is loaded, and there's very little chance he'd get starting minutes ahead of Marbury and Allan Houston. The team also has Penny, Shandon Anderson, Moochie Norris and Frank Williams in the backcourt.

    Given that New York can only offer him the mid-level exception, what's the point for Crawford -- or the Knicks, for that matter? A big like Erick Dampier or Adonal Foyle would make more sense, but both appear headed elsewhere.

    TRADES: With the free agency and draft avenues closed, Isiah has no choice but to pursue more trades if he's unhappy with the current make-up of the team. Thomas is probably the Knicks' best trade bait -- at least he was before signing that extension. The Mavs have offered Jerry Stackhouse for Thomas, but that makes little sense for the Knicks.

    Isiah would prefer to find a home for Dikembe Mutombo, Othella Harrington and one high-priced guy like Hardaway. Mutombo and Harrington are real possibilities, because they are entering the last year of their contracts. Hardaway is a tougher sell this year with more than $30 million still left on his contract.

    One scenario has Thomas packaging Mutombo, Harrington and either Sweetney or Frank Williams for a veteran big man. A team needing to get under the cap might consider it a smart cap move down the road. Allan Houston is another guy who theoretically could be on the block. His problem is that killer multi-million dollar contract that someone would have to swallow. Same goes for Marbury, Tim Thomas and everyone else Isiah acquired this year.

    It's not that these players are impossible to move. It just means Thomas would have to take back less value and a worse contract to get it done. Thomas may be able to put off the inevitable cap woes for another year or two, but eventually it's going to catch up to him. The Blazers are just coming out of it. The Mavs look like they are in the process of descending into it. The Knicks? Your grandchildren will be talking about it.

    COACHING: We're all still miffed by the hiring of Lenny Wilkens. The soft spoken coach let the Raptors spiral out of control under his watch and isn't the hard-nosed general Isiah described for the job. Wilkens has experience and caché with some of the older players, but for the most part, what he did in New York looks awfully similar to what his predecessor Don Chaney did.

    That has led to speculation Wilkens may be out and Isiah in as the new head coach of the Knicks. Isiah swears he doesn't have the coaching bug, and his closest friends are warning him not to do it ... but can he resist? Isiah built this team. If it struggles early, will he cave in to the temptation and say he's the only one who knows how to coach it? If he does, it will be the beginning of the end for Isiah in New York.

    FRONT OFFICE: Isiah always has had a good feel for the situation around him. He knew Knicks fans craved change. He knew they wanted their GM to be bold and decisive. He knew they were ready for someone to take risks.

    If that was the job description, Isiah filled it to a "T." His moves were as bold as anyone's. He knew they craved a recognizable New York name like Marbury. He knew Van Horn wasn't going to survive under the pressure of playing in the city and got a player in Tim Thomas who at least looked the part in Isiah's mind.

    In short, he banished everything about the Knicks that bore Layden's image.

    Thomas' moves were a huge success. The trades, on paper at least, almost all seemed to fall in the Knicks' favor -- at least in the short term. Isiah moved several contracts that were thought to be immovable. He changed the Knicks, and Knicks fans love him for it.

    However, the only thing fans crave more than change is winning. To be a long-term success, this team Thomas assembled must not only win in the regular season but also compete for an NBA title. Anything less, in Thomas' own words, would be a failure.

    With his cap flexibility used up, several of his players aging and an increasingly strengthened Eastern Conference, Isiah may have painted the Knicks into a corner they can't get out of. It's probably only a matter of time before he pays the ultimate price.


    You call that a blueprint? That looks like an obituary.
     
  2. CriscoKidd

    CriscoKidd Member

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    Ford is still a tool, but that is a beautiful article right there.

    NY is a joke and will continue to be so esp with Isiah at the helm.
     
  3. KingCheetah

    KingCheetah Contributing Member

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    Bill Simmions said this months ago ~ only much better than Ford.
     
  4. Relativist

    Relativist Contributing Member

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    How about Mo Taylor for Deke and Othella? Deke fills the hole at backup center and is up in two years. Othella is one-year depth at the 4/5. The main benefit is losing Mo's contract. For the Knicks, they get a bigman who can score. They can also afford to send Kurt Thomas for a player that can help them.
     
  5. steddinotayto

    steddinotayto Contributing Member

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    it's nice that chad ford brings insight on something that every NBA fan outside of NY already knew of 6 months ago.
     
  6. canoner2002

    canoner2002 Contributing Member

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    Ford just repeated something everybody knows. This doesn't change the fact that he is a fool.
     
  7. Sane

    Sane Member

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    If Barry dosn't sign for us, how about we get Kurt Thomas and Dikembe Mutombo for MoT and Pike?

    Yao/Mutombo
    KT/Howard/Spoon
    JJ/Boki/AG
    T-Mac/Barry
    Barry/Lue/Wilks

    Toughens us up, while it gives them a scorer at the 4 and someone who can fill in nicely for Allan Houston off the bench.
     
  8. Sane

    Sane Member

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    Ofcourse, then the Knicks would be able to field an all ex-rockets line up:

    MoT
    Othella
    Shandon
    Pike
    Moochie
     

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