After staying relatively quiet during the New York Knicks’ dismal start, Isiah Thomas has gone on the offensive the last few days.
The Knicks host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, one day after Thomas made it clear he wasn’t afraid to make changes to the lineup if things didn’t improve.
New York (7-17) has dropped six of its last seven games, including a 119-92 loss to Indiana on Monday. The Knicks are mired in last place in the Eastern Conference—tied with the Miami Heat for the worst record—and frustrated fans at Madison Square Garden have chanted for Thomas to be fired at seemingly every home game.
Seemingly fed-up with the situation, Thomas called out his players after Monday’s loss, questioning their effort.
“As a coach, you bring certain things to the table, but our collective energy, our collective heart, our collective toughness, we say the right things but we don’t gut it out for 48 minutes,” Thomas said.
“A lot of things that can be said about me and teams that I’ve coached and the way I played, but I’ve never been accused of not having heart or competing. Tonight was very discouraging to me because we didn’t collectively play with heart and compete like I know I do.”
Eddy Curry, who had 16 points Monday, said Thomas’ comments surprised the team.
“He doesn’t normally call us out, so I think we definitely took heed to what he said,” Curry said. “It’s almost like you want to go out there and just prove to him that we do got heart. Maybe that was a coaching tactic, I don’t know. Maybe that’s how he genuinely felt last night after we lost like that.”
The coach and team president stood by his comments Tuesday. Thomas said he may shake up the roster, but any changes wouldn’t come until possibly after this game.
“It’s safe to say that we’re not happy about where we are and I’m not happy about where we are,” Thomas said. “And if we don’t turn it around soon, then yeah, we’ll have to make some changes.”
Thomas wouldn’t exclude the idea of a coaching change, but said it was too early to make that decision.
“That’s a better question in a couple of weeks and not today, but in a couple of weeks,” he said. “We’ll see if we can come out of this. If we can’t come out of this, then those are fair questions.”
Thomas’ tirade came after a dismal offensive effort Monday. The Knicks missed 20 straight shots over an 11-minute span in the second quarter and then were outscored 55-28 after the game was tied at 64 midway through the third quarter. Zach Randolph finished with 26 points while Stephon Marbury added 16 points.
Marbury came off the bench after missing the last four games following the death of his father. He didn’t practice Tuesday on what would have been his father’s birthday. Thomas doesn’t expect him to start Wednesday, even if Marbury is available.
Although not as dire, things have also been frustrating for Cleveland (11-14). The Cavaliers are coming off just their second win in the last 10 games, a 104-99 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday 104-99.
“Every win is good for a team, especially with our struggles lately,” said James, who is averaging 25.0 points in 14 career games against the Knicks. “We still have some things to clean up, but it was good to get a win.”
Cleveland has lost 12 of its last 17 visits to Madison Square Garden, including four of the last five.
James had 45 points and Daniel Gibson hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of Cleveland’s 110-106 win over the Knicks on Nov. 2.