INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Isiah Thomas gave new Knicks president Donnie Walsh a few more reasons to fire him.
Mike Dunleavy tied a career high with 36 points, and the Indiana Pacers beat New York 132-123 on Wednesday night. The Knicks allowed their highest point total of the season and tied a franchise record with 59 losses.
It was Walsh’s first game in Indiana since stepping down as Pacers CEO last month, then replacing Thomas as president of the Knicks. Walsh didn’t like what he saw, at times shaking his head in disgust while watching from the crowd. He hasn’t promised Thomas that he’ll keep his job, only saying he wants to have more conversations with him.
“I will wait and see what Donnie has to say,” Thomas said. “He’s our boss. Whatever he asks us to do, we’ll do. This has just been a difficult year out on the floor.”
The Knicks said Thomas addressed them after the game, but said nothing about his future.
“He hasn’t given us any indication of what’s going to happen, so I really have no clue what’s going to happen, just like you,” forward David Lee said. “He’s the one who drafted me and brought me to the league. I’ve enjoyed playing for him for two years now, and so if this is the last we’ll see of him, I’ve really enjoyed playing for him and if it’s not, I’m going to look forward to next year.”
Jamal Crawford, who led New York with 25 points, said the season has been disappointing, but he’s not counting Thomas out yet.
“Everybody here likes coach Thomas a lot,” Crawford said. “He brought everybody here personally, so there’s a certain loyalty to him and I always put in perspective with Doc Rivers. Last year, they (Boston) won 15, 16 games (actually 24) and everybody wanted him fired. This year, he’s up for coach of the year. It helps to get Kevin Garnett no question, but Doc’s done a good job managing down there, so hopefully we can have the same effect here.”
Danny Granger scored 26 points, just missing his fourth consecutive 30-point game. Troy Murphy added 19 points and 12 rebounds as Indiana reached a season-high point total. The Pacers swept the Knicks for the first time in franchise history.
Jones couldn’t pinpoint what went wrong.
“Everything. Every aspect of the game, playing together, playing defense, everything.”
The Pacers missed the playoffs by one game, but closed the season by winning 11 of 16.
“We wanted to finish strong and go into next season with a positive effort, even though the game didn’t really matter,” Granger said. “We showed the pride we have as Indiana Pacers.”
Earlier in the day, Pacers co-owner Herb Simon announced he’d become more hands-on in operating the franchise, naming himself chairman and CEO of Pacers Sports and Entertainment. The Pacers also named Jim Morris president of Pacers Sports and Entertainment.
Walsh approved of the moves.
“I like the organizational structure they’ve put in place,” he said. “I think it’s a great trio of people.”
Dunleavy scored 36 points for the fifth time this season, and the third against the Knicks. He averaged 31 points this season against New York. Granger joked that he knew Dunleavy would get stuck on 36 again.
“It’s strange,” Granger said. “As soon as I looked up he had 34, and I was like, ‘Oh, he’s going to get 36.’ And sure enough he got 36.”
Dunleavy finished the season with 10 games of at least 30 points. The Pacers were 8-2 in those contests.
Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal got his first start since Jan. 16, when he left a game with a bone bruise on his left knee. He missed 33 games, then played about 20 minutes a game as a reserve before Wednesday. He played the entire first quarter, and finished with four points and five rebounds before sitting out the rest of the game.
But the game was an afterthought compared to the talk about Thomas’ future. Forward Jared Jeffries said the Knicks end the season with uncertainty.
“It’s time to get a lot of work done from both a player standpoint and a manager standpoint,” he said. “There is a chance changes will be made. But the only thing we get as players is a chance to work out. Everybody has to work on
Pacers fans booed Thomas during pregame introductions. Thomas coached the Pacers for three seasons. … Dunleavy was the first Pacer to start every game in an 82-game season since Chris Mullin in 1997-98. … Pacers C Jeff Foster (patella fracture), Pacers G Travis Diener (sore left foot) and Knicks F Wilson Chandler (bruised knee) missed the game. … The Pacers drew a sellout crowd of 18,165 on fan appreciation night. The team offered discounted tickets, and got its best crowd of the season. … Former Indiana University players Eric Gordon and D.J. White attended the game.