Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Leave it to the Knicks to turn Stephon Marbury into a sympathetic figure.

OK, maybe not "sympathetic" or "understandable" or even "worth our time," but how the Knicks managed to botch the simplest of solutions to a rather nasty (if not somewhat common, to the NBA) problem is beyond me.

Why didn't they just tell Stephon Marbury to go home last October? Or even last September? Or last week? Why didn't they do it, and tell us that it was for good this time, this morning?

Think about it. As of October 29th, Marbury was still in uniform on the Knicks bench, with the expectation to play. That's just over a month ago. How nutty does that sound now?

Well, it should have sounded nutty back then. And it was pretty darned nutty just bringing Marbury to training camp to begin with, much less playing him in seven preseason games. It was ridiculous just to bring him into media day, where this happened.

We know why the Knicks want Marbury around. It isn't to play, that ship has flown, it's to at least warm themselves to the idea of getting something out of a player who they're paying nearly $21 million to this season. And that would be admirable had the Knicks not had almost five years to prepare for this reality. Name any coach, any context, any style of play, and any win/loss percentage, and you knew Steph was going to end up like this, in this exact season.

Because it's his last season with a big contract. His last year with any juice, even if he's barely played for two years. You knew it was going to happen. Steph was going to run out of excuses after a while. Minnesota's too cold. I'm not the star. I'm not paid as much as the star. I'm all alone in New Jersey. It's not New York. The coach doesn't understand me in Phoenix. My teammates aren't good enough in New York. My coach hates me, no matter what I do. I'm not healthy. I just found Jesus, give me a second. I'm good with the Jesus stuff, and that's factorial, but Isiah hates me. Coach D'Antoni hates me. It's not my fault.

You knew it was going to come to a head, this year. Any NBA observer with half a brain would.

And the Knicks have had all this time to do something about it. Could have tried to trade his expiring deal for a few contracts that could keep them competitive and expire in 2010. Could have bought him out for the exact amount of his deal and watched Steph ruined the Heat or ruined the Suns and moped his way out of the rotation in another city. Because you know, in spite of the two good weeks that would precede it, that's what was going to happen.

But the Knicks are different and better and smarter than you. And they're not the Pacers, who told Ron Artest and Jamaal Tinsley to go away under Donnie Walsh, because they know better than you, and they know better than the Pacers. They didn't know enough not to hire Isiah Thomas, who the Pacers fired, but that's in the past. We're moving on. It's a new era.

Except they're not moving on. They're making good moves and hiring the right people, but they still want to work under their own set of rules. And that means keeping Stephon around, working under a coach that loathes him, and acting haughty and taken aback when he refuses to go on the court against the Bucks.

Steph should have gone on the court. When you're making nearly $21 million a year, you go on the court, you play your ass off, you earn your money, and you utilize your constitutional right to bitch and moan to the assembled media after the game. And that would have increased his martyrdom, his stature, and given him more than a passing scintilla of respect from us.

But that plan doesn't make sense to Steph, because he plays by his own rules. Or thinks that he should, even when he's not allowed to. He was born to be a Knick.

One of the blues songs I'm sure James Dolan and his Tube Screamer have mangled at some point is B.B. King's "Paying the Cost To Be the Boss," and I'm sure he thinks he's doing a fine job at it. Both in nailing that solo, and paying the cost to be the boss. Problem is, I don't think he understands what costs what, and what being a leader actually means. In fact, I'm sure of it.

Being a leader, a boss, means communicating with your entire organization, from top to bottom. And if you haven't the time to drop a line, then your actions speak for themselves. And being a boss means making a series of decisions that, while they may seem abhorrent and revolting to your very core, are the best for the organization that you are in charge of.

And does anyone think that this pathetic battle between the organization and their spoiled brat of a 31-year old point guard is the best for the Knicks? Even if this team is biding its time until 2010? Even if nobody will remember this in a year's time?

Hells no. Not only is Stephon's very presence an unwelcome throwback to the most disastrous executive reign in post-ABA pro basketball history (if not for all time, given the stakes), but his treatment is more proof that the head still stinks in New York, and that it is business as usual with the Knicks.

No amount of cap space can shake that stigma.

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