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Monday, March 12, 2007

A New Chapter in the Book of Isiah

I'd like to file a missing persons report. Remember all the "experts" who breathlessly informed us that Isiah Thomas is a bad coach and even worse as an executive? They've all disappeared--or at least become very quiet. Thomas' New York Knicks have steadily improved throughout the season and have actually worked their way up to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Knicks owner James Dolan has decided to reward Thomas' efforts with a multi-year contract extension. The exact terms of the deal have not been publicly announced but Dolan explained why he made the move now as opposed to waiting until the end of the season. You may remember that he gave Thomas an ultimatum before this season to produce "significant progress"--or else. Dolan said that this goal has already been reached: "I feel that the team and Isiah have shown that significant and evident progress, that they are a better team. We're all excited about the opportunity to make the playoffs but I'm also excited what this team is going to look like next year. That I feel that way is that we've created a great foundation for building this franchise. That is signficant progress. Because we reached that goal now, it has to be recognized and not wait an additional 19 games."

Five weeks ago, I detailed how much the Knicks have improved and asked, "Is there any reason that Thomas should not be a candidate for both Executive of the Year and Coach of the Year?" Admittedly, this was before the Mavericks began making a serious run at 68-70 wins; I would not argue with anyone who says that Dallas' Avery Johnson should repeat as the NBA's Coach of the Year. No one has ever won the award in consecutive seasons, though, and the honor usually goes to the coach whose team has exceeded expectations to the greatest degree as opposed to the coach of the best team; maybe those criteria are faulty, but--whether one looks at these precedents or simply considers what Thomas and the Knicks have accomplished in the shadow of Dolan's ultimatum--it is clear that Thomas is a worthy Coach of the Year candidate.

posted by David Friedman @ 9:47 PM



At Monday, March 12, 2007 11:10:00 PM, Blogger illest said...

The Knicks are young, which is a first in the last 15 years. No more old Vandeweghe, River, Cheeks, Hardaway, etc. They still arent that good but any improvement over last year is good. Plus players salaries will be off the books. Isiah is doing a decent job, and the players like him (very important). I predicted on this blog what they would go 37-45. Thats possible but I dont think they are a playoff team.

At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 2:21:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Well, if they go 37-45 they could still make the playoffs in the East.

I thought that too much Marbury and Francis would doom this team but Francis has been out for a lot of the year and has played well since he came back. I don't know that Marbury has improved any but Isiah is not letting him just dominate the ball. Curry has really developed as an offensive threat under Aguirre's tutelage. The Knicks are doing a little better than I expected--or the bottom of the East is doing a little worse-- but I am not surprised that Isiah is doing well as a coach. I still think that sooner or later Isiah the GM/President will have to do something about having both Francis and Marbury on the roster, particularly if they are healthy at the same time for an extended period.

At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 8:43:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

hvoIts a shame that he is getting an extension when the Knicks are 5 game under .500. Dolan is a joke. He is the one that needs to go. But of course if you own a cable company, hockey team, and the most famous arena why would you leave...in his case sell? Curry has played better but looks tired in key situations.

Francis and Marbury....I knew that wouldnt work just like Iverson and Anthony dont work. They all want to score. Plus none of the 4 play defense. Everytime two scoring guards (Melo is a forward that sometimes plays like a guard) play together everyone compares then to Frazier and Monroe. The press in New York did this. The difference is Frazier played defense and allowed Monroe to do what he wanted. Of course Clyde could score whenever he wanted to but there was that balance. Just like Gus and DJ and Toney and Cheeks. There is no balance with todays backcourts.

At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 9:46:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

I predicted before the season that the Knicks would make the playoffs. I think Isiah's coaching record with the Pacers is underrated, and based on what I have seen, he is one of the better coaches in the league.

Sure, he's made some dumb decisions as GM, but so has almost every other GM. The Jerome James signing and trades for Francis and Jalen Rose come to mind (though it has been claimed that it was Larry Brown who pushed for Francis and Rose). Many other of his much-maligned moves have turned out well though, such as the Curry trade, the Richardson trade, the Balkman pick, etc.

I'm happy to hear this news after all of the unecessary hate the media has been giving Isiah for past few years. Even now, ESPN is acting like the Knicks are "nuts" for giving Isiah job security (meanwhile, they make no fuss about similar situations, such as Mo Cheeks being recently assured of his job).

The Knicks are a young team which should only get better, and I think they could be a team that wins 45-50 games a year in the future. I don't think they can contend for a title at any point with their current roster simply because they have no franchise player, and their defense is far from good enough to make up for that. Still, I think they are an exciting team and their progress has been encouraging.

At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 9:52:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

Even though the Knicks are 5 games below .500, they have been playing slightly better than .500 after a poor start. Also, given the fact that they are a very young team, a bit more experience could have turned many of the close losses into close wins and many of the close wins into comfortable wins. In other words, the rationale behind the decision is probably that the Knicks are on the way up.

Monroe really toned down his one-on-one game once he got to the Knicks. Also, neither he nor Frazier dominated the ball like Steph or Steve do now.

At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 3:21:00 PM, Blogger illest said...

The Knicks are still inconsistent and I dont want to see them in the playoffs. The players like him which is a good thing for him. Anything better than 23-59 is an improvement. So Im not suprised or impressed.


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