Sunday January 13th, 2008

So Isiah Thomas says he's not quitting.

Maybe he should.

So Barry Watkins, Knicks owner James Dolan's personal mouthpiece, says there is no truth to the report that Dolan is considering firing Thomas.

He definitely should.

Things can't get much worse in New York where the Knicks, losers of two straight and nine of their last 10, are entrenched at the bottom of the conference, just a game and a half ahead of the equally dysfunctional Heat. They haven't won at home since Dec. 19 and show no signs of rewarding the fans who (inexplicably) continue to fill the seats at the Garden. Power forward Zach Randolph can't play next to Eddy Curry. Curry can't play next to Randolph. And Stephon Marbury ... well, he can't play next to anybody. "It's not working right now," said Marbury.

No kidding. The Knicks are a rudderless ship. On paper, New York has as much talent as any team in the conference. Randolph is an automatic double-double, Curry is a skilled offensive center and Marbury had to do something to earn the four-year, $76 million "max" contract extension that is currently hanging around the Knicks' neck like an albatross. But barring a Chris Bosh-like video fraught with subliminal messages (vote for meeeee, vote for meeee) the Knicks won't have an All-Star for the seventh consecutive season.

"It's safe to say, when you're having a year like we're having," Thomas said. "I don't think we'll have anybody that will be selected.''

They can't play together. Nay, they hate playing together. In Phoenix, Steve Nash makes a point of slapping hands with each teammate on nearly every dead ball. In New York you would think the Knicks hands are infected with the same disease that nearly killed David Palmer, as often as they high-five.

What do you do? Unfortunately you can't fire the players (though the Knicks certainly have tried) or the owner (though David Stern reportedly has made attempts). So you can the coach. And the president. Fortunately in New York, you get two for the price of one. You also say goodbye to anyone associated with the coach and the president because you can't make a fresh start when remnants of the old regime remain.

Something must be done, because the truth is it can get worse in New York. The Knicks could bottom out this season, secure a high draft pick and use it on O.J. Mayo, who will quickly become Marbury, version 2.0, with the tabloids whipping him like Gunnery Sergeant Foley did his namesake. Over the summer Thomas could peddle Marbury, who will be entering the final year of his contract, to Miami for the Artist Formerly Known As Shaquille O'Neal and the two years and $40 million remaining on his deal. Thomas will sit on a dais flashing his trademark smile and announce that the Knicks have the new twin towers. As if Curry's fragile psyche could handle playing next to Shaq. Tell me it won't happen. Tell me, I dare you.

It really doesn't matter who you get to replace him, though I'm of the opinion that the Knicks missed the boat when Kiki Vandeweghe signed with the team across the river and I don't believe for a second that Donnie Walsh or Jerry West will take the job as long as Dolan continues to act like the man behind the curtain. For New York, finding a replacement is less important than doing the replacing.

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