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Zeke to Donnie: Explaining What Went Wrong

A Daily Babble Production

Preface: Loath as we are to attempt to get inside the head of one Isiah Thomas, the time has finally come to do so in this space.  Current reports indicate that Thomas will stay on the rest of the season with the Knicks but will need to provide a viable explanation for why the season has gone so poorly in order to provide himself any chance to hang around beyond that.  If there were ever a meeting for which we (read: I) would love to be a fly on the wall, this would be it.  Since that doesn't appear to be an option at present, the time seems ripe to present our efforts at handicapping Isiah's speech to the Knicks' new head basketball honcho.  So without further ado, we turn to Isiah Thomas' prospective speech, "Why the 2007-08 Knicks Were Such an Unmitigated Disaster."

This will not take long, Mr. Walsh.  A cursory glance at this season of horrors for the New York Knickerbockers will indicate that there was no way that I could have anticipated the disaster that would befall this group.  Which means that holding me accountable -- just as I have failed to do with this team on the defensive end all season -- would be wholly irresponsible and unfair.  Especially when you consider the true problem with this team: It was simply too far ahead of its time.

It all started at the turn of the season from summer to autumn with the Anucha Browne Sanders harassment case.  How that turned into such a distraction, I'll never know.  Knowing that the case was coming upon us, I took great pains to put together a team that wouldn't be prone to being distracted by my drama.  Any lineup featuring Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury has had more than enough experience with these so-called distractions that it should have been utterly unflappable with regard to off-court issues.  I took every possible precaution to keep this from becoming an issue, so if you believe it was part of our slow start, well, such is life.

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Regarding our troubles in the front-court, I don't know what to tell you.  All I tried to do was follow the trends in this league and jump ahead of them.  What I've been hearing everywhere is that this is becoming a guard's league, and the so-called traditional big man's role is going out of style.  It is with that in mind that I put together the pioneering front line of Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph.  Focusing on rebounding, blocked shots, interior defense and maintaining any sort of dominant post presence is a thing of the past in the Big Apple.  Eddy helped us shove those days out the door.  As for Z-Bo, this is a guy who is more than happy to simulate the games of many of the two-guards in this league: Spend a lot of time settling for bad jumpers, shoot more threes than he should (any trey taken qualifies), act generally disinterested in the offense unless he is dominating the ball, refuse to guard anyone, ever.  The days of slow-down, defensive basketball dominating this league will end soon.  Eddy and Zach were expected to be integral in helping us get there.  They still may.  We just have to work out a few kinks.

Quentin looked really bad because instead of sitting out the majority of the season as he did the last two seasons, he had his injuries fail to heal and attempted to play through them through most of the season.  So rather than being fairly productive in minimal appearances, he has been thoroughly useless but a whole lot more available.  Ultimately, our plan is to go back in the other direction next season with him.  Most of the teams in this league mail it in throughout the midst of the season anyway, so we might as well maximize Q's ability in fewer appearances, right?

Renaldo Balkman is a scrappy swingman who can't shoot at all and couldn't consistently crack the starting lineup for his college team at South Carolina.  I refuse to give in to playing a guy simply because we're paying him first-round money and we could at least trot him out there to see what we can do to make him better, regardless of who drafted him.  I play no favorites.

The media here has given me a lot of flak for my assessment last summer that the Randolph Morris signing was the equivalent of an additional first-round pick.  I don't understand this.  Considering the current paths of past first-round picks Mardy Collins and the aforementioned Renaldo Balkman, Morris appears to be right on pace.  The complaints are invalid.

Injuries really killed us.  Our problems in the middle would have been solved with a healthy Jerome James.  While I'm not one for metrics, the man's 45.63 PER this season is truly astounding.  Getting that sort of production for more than the two games we did would have been huge for us.  Natural part of the game though.  Not much I could have done there.

The players didn't respond to me as well as they once did because they weren't coming off of a season filled with the rigidity and insensitivity that comprised Larry Brown's tenure in New York.  My entrance to the scene last season allowed us to make at least a momentary improvement because it was such a pleasure for these players after a season of the quickly disenchanted Brown.

All that in mind, what I propose is this: Firing me permanently isn't the solution, but removing me for the short term just might be.  If we hire Scott Skiles to theoretically coach next season, the players will be so sick of this guy by the end of training camp that they will be begging to have me back.  Even Steph will be happy to see me again. 

Meanwhile, the 'new frontcourts' are still developing across the league.  Phoenix has yet to win a title.  Same for Utah.  The Warriors, too.  We're just a bit further down on the learning curve.  The defenseless Zach-Eddy combo will keep coming along.  Trust me on this.  Limit Q-Rich's games played, and we might actually be able to compete in the games he plays in rather than getting wiped out in all of them.  A healthy Jerome James makes us incredibly hard to beat.  Finally, if Randolph Morris keeps developing on the Balkman-Collins curve, he could contend for a spot in the rotation right around 2040.

It's a long-term plan, but it is a plan and one likely to work at that.  And if it doesn't, well, as Robert Burns used to say, "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."  As folks in Toronto, Indiana and every CBA city can tell you, those words ring oh so true.  So true.

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