Shortly after the New York Knicks had kicked off the post-Mike D'Antoni era by putting a 121-79 thumping on a catatonic Portland Trail Blazers team that might be moments away from its own shuffling of sideline bosses, Stephon Marbury decided to weigh in via Twitter from China, where he has plied his trade for the past three years, to share his thoughts on the reported resignation of the man who coached him with both the Knicks and the Phoenix Suns.
Those thoughts, in a nutshell: I told you so.
In fairness to Steph, whether or not you share his opinion that D'Antoni is a fraud, he did tell us the coach's exit was just "a matter of time." So, well done, Steph. Your powers of prognostication are strong. Please forward me any and all stock tips/Powerball number suggestions.
Not content to merely bask in the inner peace and light that comes with making sure everyone knows you were right, though, Steph decided to have an open and frank dialogue with his Twitter followers regarding his feelings on the D'Antoni situation. For about the next 8 1/2 hours. (Steph has a lot of feelings.)
While those of us on the East Coast slept (or tried to figure out what the hell Dwight Howard is planning to do), Marbury engaged his audience's replies to his "#DANPHONY" missive and giving his reading on the continued unrest within Madison Square Garden.
He told followers that "it took some time but Dolan finally forced his hand," suggesting that Knicks owner James Dolan pushed D'Antoni to a point of no return, which jives with multiple reports that the coach asked Dolan if he'd consider moving All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony before Thursday's 3 p.m ET NBA trade deadline, and that when the owner said no, D'Antoni beat feet.
Marbury said that "they" — presumably the New York front office, but who knows, really — "finally caught on to the circle [D'Antoni] talks in," and that Dolan (rather than 'Melo, who's taken the brunt of the blame for the coach's exit) forced D'Antoni out because the coach "was messing with his money." He criticized reports painting D'Antoni's resignation as the last desperate act of a man with no outs, deriding media members for sticking up for "their wounded buddy."
Marbury and D'Antoni never saw eye-to-eye in New York. (AP)Steph's sharpest critiques, though, were reserved for D'Antoni's decision to resign — that, as he said up top, rather than "knock down" the walls thrown up in front of him, the coach up and quit. Marbury slammed D'Antoni for pulling "a coward move in the wrong city" and said that D'Antoni "has no fight in him as a man."
The history between Marbury and D'Antoni is long and bloody. The two overlapped for one season in Phoenix while D'Antoni was an assistant to Frank Johnson, and then very briefly between D'Antoni's December 2003 bump to head coach and Marbury's January 2004 trade to the Knicks. When D'Antoni took over in Manhattan before the 2008-09 season and seemed less than thrilled by the idea of letting Marbury (who had been spiraling out of control for years at that point) run the controls of his spread pick-and-roll offense — an idea that most felt at the time was pretty unappealing, regardless of whether or not Steph thought he was pretty much exactly like Steve Nash — questions flew about whether some age-old grudge existed between the two.
Whether or not the condition was pre-existing, it proved cancerous — D'Antoni kept Marbury fastened to the bench behind the immortal Chris Duhon, Steph understandably fumed at being the team's best player but not getting the chance to play, and everything went downhill. Before you knew it, the Knicks were buying out Marbury's contract to put an end to things, leaving a sour taste in everyone's mouth. Especially, apparently, Marbury, who said multiple times Wednesday night that he takes no joy in watching a man get fired, but sure seemed pretty psyched at the idea of reminding everyone that he called this shot.
As is often the case in he-said-he-said stories like the rift between Marbury and D'Antoni, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. D'Antoni probably wasn't totally honest about his intention to stick Marbury in the deep freeze, Marbury probably overreacted a bit to being (likely rightly) deemphasized in a system for which he was ill-suited, and the impossible-to-evade internecine maelstrom forever roiling in the bowels of MSG probably made everything 1,000 times worse than it needed to be. Now, both coach and player — welcomed as conquering heroes and saviors — find themselves on the outside looking in, with the franchise arguably in worse position than before they'd arrived. Great job, everyone.
Three other items of note from Steph's Twitter deluge:
• Everyone worried about what's going to happen to Jeremy Lin — the once-revelatory point guard who meshed so well with D'Antoni's system and, as Bruce Arthur of the National Post noted in a fantastic column Wednesday night, animated both the Knicks and the league in a way that seemed to supersede basketball-as-usual — should rest easy, according to Steph. No weapon formed against him shall prosper:
• As SB Nation's Brian Floyd pointed out Wednesday night, even with D'Antoni gone, Steph still doesn't seem too interested in leaving the Beijing Ducks to come back to the Knicks:
"Bummer." — Knicks fans