No one can say Isiah Thomas hasn’t been busy since taking over as New York Knicks team president.
After the third trade of Thomas’ brief tenure, the Knicks showcase another new look when they take the floor at Madison Square Garden against the struggling Detroit Pistons.
Thomas, who also replaced coach Don Chaney with Lenny Wilkens, dealt Keith Van Horn to Milwaukee for forward Tim Thomas and picked up center Nazr Mohammed from Atlanta in a three-team trade on Sunday. The Hawks acquired Michael Doleac and a 2005 second-round draft pick from the Knicks and Joel Przybilla from the Bucks.
Since taking over on Dec. 22, Isiah has shipped out all but seven players who were with the team when he arrived.
“I inherited a situation that wasn’t good,” he said. “Until we’re the best, we’re not done.”
Van Horn was averaging 16.4 points for New York, third on the team behind Stephon Marbury and Allan Houston, after coming to the Knicks last summer in a multi-team deal that sent Latrell Sprewell to Minnesota.
Isiah gave a strong hint of how he felt about that deal on his first day on the job in New York, saying: “I wasn’t on the watch. What’s done is done.”
Tim Thomas averaged 14.1 points and 4.9 rebounds for the Bucks, with whom he spent 4 1/2 seasons. Mohammed scored 6.5 points and grabbed five rebounds per game this season as the Hawks’ backup center.
The trade further enhances the wide-open, up-tempo style the Knicks have employed since the blockbuster trade that brought Marbury over from Phoenix on Jan. 5. Thomas will likely become the starting small forward while Mohammed provides an agile backup for starting center Dikembe Mutombo.
“We wanted to get more athletic and wanted to get tougher from a rebounding standpoint,” Isiah added.
Besides the debuts of Tim Thomas and Mohammed, New York may welcome Houston back to the lineup for this game. Averaging 19.5 points, Houston has been sidelined since late January with a left knee injury.
The Knicks, who open a three-game homestand, will try to get back on track after dropping their last two games prior to the All-Star break. Before losing on the road to Dallas and New Orleans, New York had won a season-high five straight to move into second place in the Atlantic Division.
The Pistons look to snap a season-high five-game losing streak that has dropped them 6 1/2 games behind first-place Indiana in the Central.
Detroit has followed a 13-game win streak by going 4-8, but three of those victories came away from home.
Ben Wallace, who last season became the first undrafted player to start in an All-Star game, had four points and seven rebounds starting at center for the East in this season’s showcase—a 136-132 win for the West on Sunday.
While he scores only 9.7 points per game, the reigning two-time defensive player of the year ranks second in the NBA in blocks (2.98) and rebounds (13.2).
STANDINGS (through Feb. 15): Pistons - 2nd place, 6 1/2 GB, Central Division. Knicks - 2nd place, 7 1/2 GB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Pistons - Hamilton, 18.1 ppg; Wallace, 13.2 rpg; Billups, 5.1 apg. Knicks - Marbury, 20.7 ppg and 8.8 apg; Kurt Thomas, 8.8 rpg.
SEASON SERIES: Pistons, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 1; Pistons, 79-78, OT. At New York, Billups scored 24 points and Wallace pulled down 14 boards as the Pistons spoiled the Knicks debut of Antonio McDyess, who would later be shipped to Phoenix in the Marbury trade.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pistons - 14-13 on the road; Knicks - 15-13 at home.