With their star point guard having returned from a bizarre absence, the Knicks (2-5) continue a four-game road trip against the Sacramento Kings (2-6) on Friday looking to end a four-game losing streak.
Controversy swirled around Marbury this week after he left the Knicks and skipped Tuesday’s game at Phoenix, only to fly to Los Angeles in time for New York’s 84-81 loss to the Clippers on Wednesday.
Marbury didn’t start, but scored 13 points.
“I’m positive all the way around. I’m covered. I’m fine. I feel good. I’m cool. I could walk with my head up,” Marbury said. “I feel like I could go forward and do what I have to do. I have a job to do and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
He was fined $182,000 for the transgression, and his relationship with Knicks coach Isiah Thomas, who Marbury reportedly said had given him permission to leave the team, appears to have cooled.
“Unfortunately, lessons in life have to be learned on a public stage,” Thomas said. “He’s a kid that made it out of Coney Island, and I think what I’m asking him to do, he’s capable of doing. As I said to him before, if he can’t do it, we’ll have to find someone who can.”
The New York Times reported Thursday that Marbury spent several hours at a Coney Island housing project Tuesday after one of his childhood basketball coaches died suddenly.
The Knicks also had been missing leading scorer Zach Randolph after the power forward’s grandmother died. Randolph returned Wednesday against the Clippers and scored 16 points while grabbing 19 rebounds, but he’s expected to miss Friday’s game for the funeral.
The Knicks haven’t had much success even with their full lineup this season. They rallied from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the Clippers with 1:41 left, but again stumbled late.
Marbury’s 3-point try with 45 seconds left would have given the Knicks the lead, but the ball went in and out of the rim. He missed a driving layup with 19 seconds remaining and New York trailing 82-79 before making his next layup for New York’s final points.
New York is shooting 41 percent during the four-game slide, including 27 percent on 3-pointers. The Knicks have turned the ball over at least 17 times in each of the four games.
“We just don’t seem to have the grind right now to gut it out and get that win when we need it,” Thomas told the team’s official Web site. “For us right now, the unforced turnovers - we are having turnover situations that we just shouldn’t have as a professional basketball team.”
Things are going equally poorly for the Kings, whose only victories have come against Minnesota and Seattle - both one-win teams. Ron Artest scored 17 points in his return from a seven-game suspension Wednesday, but Sacramento was outrebounded 41-26 and lost 108-103 at Minnesota to give the Timberwolves their first win.
“It seems like we’re starting to get used to having players out and then come back,” said guard Kevin Martin, who’s among the league leaders with 26.4 points per game. “We can’t use that as an excuse anymore.”
If you ask Thomas, Marbury has run out of excuses. Due to earn $42 million over the next two years, Marbury is averaging 14.8 points and 6.3 assists, but has repeatedly clashed with his coach.
“I love all my players, just like my mother loved me, but sometimes she snatched me out of the park and had tough words for me and did some tough things to me,” Thomas said. “… I believe he’s capable of leading this team and he’s capable of playing great defense. When I see those two things, I think our team can take another step in this league.”
The Kings and Knicks split two meetings last season, each winning at home.