Thursday, February 23, 2006

Failing Upwards with Isaiah Thomas

Parts of this post have been sitting in my 'drafts' folder for some time, because Zeke is becoming something of a soft-target, but yesterday's news just beggars belief:
Steve Francis is headed to New York under a deal agreed to Wednesday by the Knicks and the Orlando Magic. . .The teams agreed to a trade of Francis for Penny Hardaway and Trevor Ariza
What the hell is he doing? It's conceivable that this deal makes them marginally better on the floor, now. But, the Knicks are 15-3738, the second worst record in the league, so they aren't going anywhere this year. Their first round pick is going to the Bulls in the Eddy Curry deal, and they are already a billion dollars over the cap for next season, so help is not on the way.

Plus, they had to give up Ariza, who I think is a promising young player. Further, the 'addition' of Francis (along with Jalen Rose) will undoubtedly cut into Nate Robinson's minutes, slowing his growth, to be sure. Something tells me that Jamal Crawford isn't going to take well to being the 4th-string shooting guard. It's not exactly going to be the Love Boat in Madison square.

Ah, the happy couple.

Plus from an aesthetic standpoint, they are going to be utterly unwatchable. Dribble-dribble-dribble-carrythatisntcalledthinkingaboutpassing (deep breath) dribble-dribble-shotclockat2-offbalanceJ, brick, and we're going the other way. Repeat 40 times or more per game as needed. Really, all that needs to happen for Larry Brown's head to explode is to bring The Perfessor in for an extended tryout.

So what's the plan here? They are likely already over the cap for 2007/8 and 2008/2009 with the addition of Stevie Franchise's $16.4 and $17.2mil guarantees for those two years. Plus. this is Isaiah-freaking-Thomas we are talking about, so one can't rule out future "oooh shiny" Jerome Jamesian signings or a trade of Channing Frye for Brian Scalabrine because Zeke thinks redheads play harder.

One Simmons reader has a theory:
My friend Ryan and I were talking about the Stevie Francis trade and we're pretty sure that some day we are going to find out how Isiah Thomas and the team owners are profiting from this, and it's going to retroactively become the great sports scandal in history. Our current theory is that it all comes back to MJ somehow. It all stems from the gambling ring Gretsky and Jordan started when they were doing voices for the "Superstars" cartoon show in the '80s. Miffed at the physical beating he would take in the playoffs from the Knicks, MJ set a diabolical plan in motion which has spanned decades. Each of his retirements somehow furthered this plan, but we're not sure how. Although the conspiracy was originally formulated for revenge the ring now has one ultimate result: the return of Bo Jackson. I mean, it sounds crazy, but not as crazy as actually wanting the most expensive worst team in the league. Bo knows conspiracies.
Better than anything I've got. I'm almost at the point where I'll buy anything. The closest anyone has come to explaining it, is this half-brained, kool-aid addled scheme:
I understand that this concept is eternally confusing, but the Knicks are not trying to ever get under the cap, nor should they.

As long as they always have an big expiring contract around, they can accomplish absolutely anything a team under the cap can accomplish. And Zeke has correctly staggered his expiring contracts - that was what the Davis-Rose deal was all about.

. . .

In other words, there's no downside for Zeke to pick up Stevie Franchise if he thinks it'll put an interesting squad on the court this year and next year while Curry and Frye are developing. If the Marbury/Francis backcourt doesn't play out, there's no downside to just putting one of the two on the bench.

. . .

Or to put it another way, the model for the Knicks is the 90's Yankees: just keep leveraging the fact that you have considerably more dollars to spend than anyone else to keep acquiring talent that others are abandoning for money reasons, and let the money advantage gradually play itself out.
Even if that is the "plan", it's a monstrously stupid one, with very little chance of success. And by very little chance, I meant that I'll be on the first Knicks team to win a championship under Zeke's, er, leadership.

A few weeks ago, there was an extended hit piece on Zeke in the NY Daily News. Nothing those of us who have watched with shock and awe as Isaiah managed to fail upward (with more rapidity than anyone who isn't threatening to veto inteference with port-administration deals) haven't seen before [belated cheap shot alert]. [A cheap shot against the President, who could be legitimately insulted by being mentioned in the same breath as Zeke. If Thomas was running things, they may well have "Surrounded us in the [our] tanks." If Larry Brown does end up offing himself, Baghdad Bob is the next Knicks coach, I guaran-darn-tee.] But there was this money quote from Zeke bobo Brendan Suhr:

I think the way we're running the business - we're not proud of our won/loss record [Pooh: don't sell you self short, there are tons of teams that would love to have 15 win seasons. Of course, they all play in the NFL] - but I'll tell you what, our business record is very strong. What leaders do, they define reality every day and then they create hope and optimism for the people that work for them.
Such 'Magical Thinking' may work in some contexts, but when there is an actual (as opposed to metaphorical) scoreboard, not so much. You can say that Stephon Marbury is the best point guard in basketball all that you want. But there are these things called 'games' and they get 'played', and there are 'results' and 'statistics' that get 'written down' and 'published' in something we used to call 'newspapers' before the advent of these here IntraWebs.

How did that TNT tagline from last year's playoffs go? "Let the Truth Be Told?" Isaiah Thomas isn't qualified to run a junior-varsity girl's summer league team. How's that for telling some truth?

Addendum: Deadspin has a roundup of reactions, including one that indicates why Miami Heat fans should be concerned by this deal:
While most of New York is skeptical, after all wouldn’t you be when a team is 15-38? One former Knick coach isn’t based on this comment to the STAR LEDGER:

“I think they’ve turned the corner. They’ve accumulated a tremendous amount of talent. Ever since he’s (Isiah’s) come here, the talent level has gone through the roof. That’s all I know. Now, whether or not that’s going to work one day, is going to be up to whoever coaches the team. … I think it’s a gift for the Knicks, basically.” - Pat Riley
Perhaps Riles has watched the clip of himself getting piked on to start the 1966 NCAA Championship game from the end credits of Glory Road one time too many. He may have lost it.


Icepick said...

Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh, my cup runneth over! Thanks, Pooh. And I'm writing this BEFORE I read the post.

Icepick said...

Excellent work. Concerning the "Bo Knows Conspiracies" theory: you wrote "Better than anything I've got." The problem is that it's better than anything Zeke's got, too. He may be a soft target, but he deserves this abuse.

I haven't really followed basketball in several years, so I'd like to ask you a question: Is this the dumbest trade in recent history? I am of the opinion that it may well have been the worst possible trade the Knicks could have made.

Pooh said...

Maybe not, the worst possible, but pretty close. If they had included Frye, that would have been worse, since he's almost certainly going to be a better player than Ariza.

If they had acquired Dampier or Webber maybe, as those are possibly worse contracts, though I'd posit that both players probably help more than Francis on the floor.

As far as dumb trades, the gold standard is still, near and dear to my heart, Joe Barry Carroll for Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale.

Of more recent vintage, the Vince Carter trade last year was terrible, but it's hard to kill the Raptors for it, since Vinsanity quit on them and forced a move for cents on the dollar. The Webber trade hurt both teams equally, I thought.

The Shaq trade was less than stellar, especially when you spin Caron Butler into pantheon-level bust Kwame Brown.