November 05, 2010
You'd be forgiven for forgetting that Florida International University head man Isiah Thomas is still an actual NCAA head coach, these days. Because of the way the Knicks still wanted to hire him to do ... something. And the way that he might still find a way to lose the Knicks even more draft picks, as a result of the illegal machinations behind his time running the Knicks.
And the way he can't stop talking about the Knicks. Like, to Ian O'Connor, from ESPN New York. The interview is just so full of stupid that it's almost hard to make it through the whole thing. Almost.
We're just going to have to take bits and pieces out.
Asked if he hopes to replace Donnie Walsh whenever the 69-year-old Knicks president retires, Thomas said, "Every single day of the week.
"When I look at my GM/executive record, if I'm evaluated on that, then whoever's after Donnie, if you're not talking about some of the top people in the game, I'll put my draft evaluation record up against anyone's."
Not the nicest thing to say, on record, especially as any GM (no matter how fit) would likely end up shaving years off his life trying to clean up the capped-out, asset-poor, draft pick-never situation that Thomas left behind in New York. Yes, Isiah drafted well. When he left himself draft picks to work with, rather than shipping them out for Eddy Curry(notes) and Stephon Marbury(notes).
Also, [forget] you, FIU! "Every single day of the week!"
Thomas guessed James would ultimately sign an extension with Cleveland that would keep him with the Cavaliers through 2010, but went about acquiring players he thought would appeal to LeBron, anyway. Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford(notes), for instance.
"They were just all friendly, and they were all on the AAU circuit," Thomas said.
Lots of NBA players are friendly, and most over the last 20 years have been on the AAU circuit. Tim Thomas(notes), for one, which is probably why you traded for him back in 2004. But the idea of James and Curry and JC as fast friends? Come off it.
Curry finished high school two years before LeBron did. Crawford a full four years before James did, so it's hardly as if they're AAU best-buds, playing against each other all summer and hanging out in the green room at the same NBA draft. This is akin to the Knicks trying to trade for Al Harrington(notes) (not that far-fetched an idea, considering Donnie Walsh runs the team) in order to secure itself a chance to acquire Carmelo Anthony(notes) this summer, because "they were all on the AAU circuit." Same age difference.
So the man criticized for never having a plan actually had one. It might've been crazy to focus on 2010 in 2004 and 2005, but Thomas had many friends in the business who thought he was crazy to assume control of the Knicks in the first place. His overmatched predecessor, Scott Layden, had left behind a dreadful roster that was some $45 million over the salary cap.
Yeah, he had a plan.
Traded for Stephon Marbury just days after taking the job, losing assets and trading away draft picks with abandon for the rights to Coney Island's finest.
Traded for Crawford the next summer, tossing away all sorts of expiring contracts for the rights to the leading scorer off of a 23-win team.
Tried to sign both Kwame Brown(notes) and Antoine Walker(notes) with the mid-level exception (not a joke, not revisionist history) in the summer of 2005, and instead spent it all on Jerome James(notes). With the excuse in place that the Knicks needed a center, so the team had no choice but to overpay for a terrible one. Of course, once summer ended, Thomas traded away an eventual lottery pick, more expiring contracts, and downgraded his 2007 pick (one that netted Chicago Joakim Noah(notes)) for Eddy Curry.
A few months later he sent more expiring contracts away for Steve Francis(notes). Months after that, capped out and with no more assets to deal, he spent his entire mid-level exception on Jared Jeffries(notes).
Clearly, you can see the plan taking shape.
Thomas was trying to survive until he could recruit James, the longest of long-term strategies doomed from the start. "That's a problem with being a visionary," Thomas said. "You're way too far out, and by the time it catches up, people will hack you to death."
What part of the preceding paragraphs, the one about Crawford and Kwame and Curry and Francis and Jerome James, screams "visionary" to you?
The sexual harassment trial amounted to the final, fatal hack. "I think if you take away that trial," Thomas said, "I'm still there, we make the playoffs a couple of times ... and I don't know if Miami has LeBron or Wade. We may have had LeBron and Wade."
New York missed the playoffs in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 under Isiah. And they were going to make it in 2009 and 2010 ... how?
As a Dolan emissary on a desperate mission, Thomas met with a James associate on the eve of LeBron's televised announcement in July, arriving with too little power, too late in the game. Not that Thomas is giving up on the hope of being a high-ranking Knicks executive in the summer of 2014, when James can opt out of his deal with the Heat.
"I'd like to still hold onto that dream," Thomas said. "I do think that he'll win championships here in Miami, and they will be a great dynasty. ... But I think when he comes to New York and he wins it in New York, I think he's the greatest player ever."
Sweet. So when James Dolan hires Isiah back in 2013, he'll already have the tampering charges in place and on record.
Bit of a problem with that, Zeke. You want to sign both Dwyane Wade(notes) and LeBron James(notes) last summer? Lee (as a free agent) and Randolph and Crawford (combined to make about $28 million, this year) can't be part of that team. You'd have to dump all three.
"There was a method behind the madness," Thomas said. He was confident Curry would opt out in 2010 to clear the necessary space for a fellow client of Leon Rose, name of LeBron James.
Eddy Curry would willingly turn down nearly $11.3 million just because he's such a swell guy and really, really wants the Knicks to get LeBron James. Totally, Isiah. Totally.
Isiah Thomas held up his cell phone to show a text from a starting Eastern Conference point guard. In the message, the player wrote that he was hoping Thomas would offer him some career advice.
"I get asked to advise a lot of players," Thomas said. "Not just Carmelo."
"Six or seven [NBA] teams I advise," said Thomas, who included the Knicks in that group. "I don't get paid for it."
You get what you pay for, I guess. And care to guess the combined winning percentage of those six or seven stellar outfits?
Asked if he would characterize a return to the Knicks' presidency as a dream, a desire or an expectation, Thomas said, "Desire or dream. I don't expect it. But knowing what I know about the game and the relationships that I have, I'm confident that if no crazy [stuff] happens, I think I can win in New York, and I think I was really close to winning in New York."
Zeke, the only way you're going to ever win in New York is for SO much crazy [stuff] to happen.
"In Toronto, Indiana and New York," Thomas said, "I've never actually gotten fired for a basketball reason."
In Toronto you were let go because you tried to stage a coup and take over the ownership reins, after Damon Stoudamire(notes) (your hand-picked legend to be) forced his way out of Toronto because he hated the way you were running the team. In Indiana you had an incredibly talented roster in the worst era of Eastern Conference basketball in history, and yet you couldn't do anything with it as a coach, even losing to a miserable Boston Celtics team in the 2004 playoffs. In New York you were let go for being the worst basketball executive since whoever the heck hired "Eddie."
Isiah, you're a nutter. You're absolutely bonkers. I laughed so hard at the Steve Francis trade that my then-girlfriend thought I was choking on something. You were so bad as a Knick executive that even Knick fans couldn't defend you, and that's saying something, because those guys won't go down without a fight.
You want us to believe that LeBron James would have signed with the Knicks last summer because he once played AAU ball like (and not with) Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford, though that plan would have to include a trade of Crawford's contract, and Eddy Curry willingly handing back over $11 million just so his fellow former AAU-participant could sign with the Knicks.
You coach the Florida International University Golden Panthers, your school's athletic director doesn't even know your last name. And yet, I'm not entirely convinced you even deserve that gig. Just go away.