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Time To Give Starbury the Overdue Boot

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That Stephon Marbury has comported himself in a less than exemplary manner during his tenure as a member of the New York Knickerbockers is rather evident at this point.  The last four-plus years have been filled with me-first play, an utter lack of defense, all sorts of troubles with coaches and the front office, off-court incidents that increased the team's legal liability, odd public statements and continued demonstration of the fact that he is not committed to his teammates.  That the Knicks want nothing to do with him at this point makes plenty of sense, and if not for the fact that  the front office legend that is Isiah Thomas spent nearly the last five years in control, one could only wonder how it took the team so long to reach this point (but Thomas' presence explains that).

But as the Knicks' developing break-up with Marbury becomes more of a three-ring media circus by the day, the it increasingly appears that Marbury isn't the only culpable party here.  The team's handling of his situation thus far has left plenty of room for questioning, and it seems at this point that the time has come for the Knicks to simply tell the disgruntled guard to take a hike.

It became clear in the first week of the regular season that new coach Mike D'Antoni did not plan to play Marbury.  The point guard suited up for the first game and did not play by virtue of coaching decision, and he went to the inactive list after that, appearing in warm-ups rather than street clothes only when the team needed his presence to meet the minimum players dressed requirement.

Now, Marbury has allegedly declined to play when asked on two occasions over the last ten days, and the varying reports of his interactions with D'Antoni have sparked a media firestorm in the Sizable Apple.  This only further begs the question of why the front office kept him around the team in the first place.

That isn't a question designed to paint Marbury as any sort of victim.  He isn't one.  He has been paid quite a bit of money over the years to not get teams very far.  He is currently being paid quite a bit of money to do absolutely nothing.  Please, let's spare ourselves the "He deserves better from the team" spiel.

It's the team that deserved better from itself.  The goal is clearly to get rid of Marbury, and there are normally a couple of ways to go about doing that for a player who has a contract of the magnitude of $21.9 million: a trade or a buyout.  Keeping Marbury around at the beginning of the season might have made sense for the purpose of playing him to try and raise his trade stock as the Knicks did with the recently departed Zach Randolph.  Not using a player at all won't positively impact his trade value, so Marbury would have been just as movable (or possibly immovable) in exile as he would have been by being kept around the team as inactive.  His reputation around the league is presumably relatively set by now.  Sending him home could only have done what the legal system refers to as incremental harm to his locker room image at this point.

Similarly, in the case of a buyout, having Steph travel with the team and not play or sit at home and not play wouldn't have impacted buyout procedure much.  Until an agreement can be reached, Marbury continues to receive his full salary.  Where he is when he gets that salary has no financial impact on the Knicks.

What does make a difference is that a Stephon Marbury who spends his time around the Knicks team is a Stephon Marbury more likely to cause distractions for that Knicks team.  By being around the media, by even being available to refuse to play, by sitting there on the bench in his street clothes every night, Starbury has remained firmly planted in the midst of the spotlight for this Knicks team, exactly the opposite of what the organization was looking for this season.  Keeping him away from the team from the start could potentially have helped prevent the distractions Marbury has been able to cause of late.  It certainly wouldn't have hurt.  The Knicks wouldn't have been paying Marbury any more or utilizing his basketball skills any less than they have so far, and they would have been free of his physical presence.  The Bulls did this with Tim Thomas in 2005-06, and the Pacers are doing it now with Jamaal Tinsley, and both of those franchises seem to have been better off for it.

It appears now that what little is left of Stephon Marbury's fractured relationship with the New York Knicks is not going to be around much longer.  But while the team figures out how to part ways with the malcontent from Coney Island, it might as well try to save its players and coaching staff some unneeded media grief by doing what it should have done long ago: telling Steph to keep away.  Permanently.