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Isiah Thomas, the Master Narcissist…

While drinking my Cup of Joe this morning, I almost showered my darling wife in coffee when I came across Ian O’Connor’s ESPNNewYork.com article, Exiled Isiah Itching for an Encore.  Now, leaving aside the fact that my wife was not at all pleased to have her shower with cream, lets look at some of the more salient points of this piece for insight into the state of Thomas:

Exiled in Miami, haunted by his proximity to LeBron James, Thomas embraces his articles of blind faith like one would a baby in a storm

Huh?  Haunted by his proximity to LeBron James?  What?!?  Why?!?

Isiah believes James (and perhaps Dwyane Wade) would be starting for the New York Knicks if Isiah had remained president of the team.

Really?  REALLY?  Wow.  You have to love the narcissism of Thomas.  I think that Pat Riley deserves credit for reeling in the three big fish to the Heat, but really his greatest work this summer was how he assembled a team around those three.  Do you actually think that LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were going anywhere other than Miami?  This wasn’t about Pat Riley (although he surely helped), it was about the three of them wanting to play together in South Beach.  What does Isiah think his presence would have meant?  Would he have made it a sunny 85 degrees all winter long in New York?  Would he have turned the Hudson turquoise?  Would he have convinced all the women in suits walking down fifth avenue to wear bikinis instead?  Well, actually given his history he might have tried that last one (too low?).

Even if I’m wrong, even if the location was only a minor factor in their decision and the Big Three could have been swayed somewhere else, whose presence is getting the attention of LeBron and Wade:  Is it Pat Riley and his 5 NBA titles, with his 17 seasons of 50 or more wins (including 7 above 60)?  Or would it have been Thomas with his spotty record in Toronto, his destruction of the CBA, his five coaching seasons in which he compiled a .456 winning percentage, and his lost sexual harassment suit?  Seriously Isiah?  Seriously?

Speaking of that sexual harrasement suit, O’Connor writes,

The sexual harassment trial amounted to the final, fatal hack. “I think if you take away that trial,” Thomas said, “I’m still there, we make the playoffs a couple of times … and I don’t know if Miami has LeBron or Wade. We may have had LeBron and Wade.”

This paragraph shows just how deeply Thomas doesn’t get it.  Not only is he prattling on about how they’d have gotten LeBron and Wade, but he blames the trial for his undoing in New York, not realising that the whole point of the trial was… finding him culpable of sexually harassing Anucha Browne Sanders.  That’s not the trial’s fault Isiah, that’s YOUR fault.  That’s why your boss had to pay Sanders 11 million.

Instead of admitting guilt, or accepting any form of culpability, Thomas continues to deflect,

“If the things that she alleges did happen in her daily working environment, I have great sympathy for her. If those things happened in her daily working environment, then yes, she is a victim, and I do have great compassion for her.

Unfortunately Isiah, that’s not how this works.  You were found guilty, which makes her the victim.  Even if you don’t believe it, the best thing you can do at this point is to be penitent.  Instead of saying, “if these things happened…”  Say, “I am so sorry for everything that happened to Anucha.  Nobody deserves to experience what she went through and I am sorry.”  Whether you believe she suffered or not isn’t relevant.  At least not publicly.  If you truly believe yourself innocent in the affair, then that’s fine, but publicly be repentant, and show sorrow for what she suffered.  In this case, it isn’t about your experiences, it’s about hers, but Isiah continues his vain outlook,

“My wife and kids and I, we were persecuted like I’ve never seen anywhere in sports. [The criticism] just got so mean and … as a family we were just hanging by a thread every single day. We were just hanging by a thread and just trying to hunker down and weather the storm. My mother was dying at the time, and it was the most awful time in my life. We were going through hell.”

I imagine it was hell for your wife and kids and obviously the passing of your mother is tragic, but again (with the exception of his mother’s passing) that’s a hell perpetrated by Thomas, not Sanders, not the trial, not the media in New York.  Isiah himself.

Of course, Isiah’s neurosis run deeper than just the trial.  On the topic of how talented the Knicks’ roster was,

But there were 24 All-Stars last year,” he said, “and I left New York with two of them, David Lee and Zach Randolph. Jamal Crawford became a sixth man of the year.

No Isiah, you didn’t leave the Knicks with two future all stars and a sixth man award winner, you left them with disparate pieces that did not work together.  Randolph had averaged almost 20 points and ten rebounds a game during in his six years in Portland, everyone knew he could score, but he couldn’t stop a donut, and together with Lee all you had was too much of the same thing.  On top of which, while Crawford did have a nice year last season, he remains a fundamentally flawed player who still jacks up too many shots, doesn’t defend, and doesn’t get IT.  In the Basketball Bible, Bill Simmons credits Thomas with giving him the secret to NBA success, but none of the primary guys acquired by Thomas (Stephon Marbury, Vin Baker, Crawford, Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Jalen Rose, Steve Francis, Randolph) were guys who understood the “secret” of how to win a title in the NBA.  Not a single one, got IT.

Thomas has gotten some credit for his talent evaluation and his draft record is good.  Obviously his best pick was David Lee with the 30th pick in the 2005 draft.  Lee’s a scoring machine and he’s a good rebounder, so even though his defense is weak, he was superb value at 30th.  There were other successes (for instance, in his first draft with the Knicks Thomas plucked Trever Ariza with the 43rd pick), but lets not make it out like he was the modern day Red Auerbach or anything.  In 2005 with his first pick, Thomas took Channing Frye 8th; Frye has been a solid pro, but since I tore him apart last week and since Andrew Bynum was picked two spots later, well… The year after that he took Renaldo Blackman 20th, right before the Suns took Rajon Rondo.  Wilson Chandler and Nate Robinson are fine, but they aren’t exactly world changing talents.

What about the picks he traded away?  Because there was Thomas’ greatest crime to the New York Knickerbocker franchise.  In the Eddy Curry deal he sent away the picks that became Joakim Noah and LaMarcus Aldridge.  Wow, how good might the Knicks have been with that front line?  And, of course, there’s the possible number one pick that terrorized Knicks fans all of last year, as Utah looked like it might really benefit from Isiah even after he’d gone (instead they ended up with just the 9th pick).  So, yeah he can identify talent, but he still missed on draft picks, and he had no idea of how to put the pieces together and no idea about how to protect assets.

Of course, Thomas blamed Larry Brown for trading Ariza and he blamed James Dolan for hiring Brown.  As for the Curry trade, in a frightening sign, he still thinks that was a good idea,

“There was a method behind the madness,” Thomas said. He was confident Curry would opt out in 2010 to clear the necessary space for a fellow client of Leon Rose, name of LeBron James… “They were just all friendly, and they were all on the AAU circuit,” Thomas said.

Really, he was confident that Curry would opt out?  But he also thought that Curry and James being AAU buddies would help?  So which was it Isiah?  Were you confident Curry would lure LeBron?  Or were you confident he’d opt out?  Because nobody else was, Curry’s contract was lampooned as a bad deal the second it was signed, and how close were Curry and LeBron as AAU friends considering that when Curry was a high school senior LeBron was in grade nine?  So, looking back now, it’s easy to say that you planned to bring LeBron to the Knicks, but it’s hard to see how the attrocious Curry deal helped you accomplish that mission.

Which brings me to my final point, how exactly was Isiah going to acquire LeBron?  He showed NO ability to manage the salary cap, acquiring one overwhelming, onerous contract after another.  The only way he was able to add talent was by trading expiring deals for other team’s poisonous contracts.

Hired as president of the Knicks in December of 2003, Thomas said he targeted James as the centerpiece of a future title winner in New York “from the first day he got in the league, as soon as I got the job.”

The notion that he identified LeBron back then as a piece that would be great for the Knicks is wonderful.  Likewise, when George Steinbrenner passed away, I decided that it would be a good idea if I bought the Yankees.  All I need is a billion dollars and a dream.  Unfortunately, whether or not Isiah identified LeBron as the piece he needed to win a title in New York, in reality you need more than a dream to make something happen.

Thomas guessed James would ultimately sign an extension with Cleveland that would keep him with the Cavaliers through 2010, but went about acquiring players he thought would appeal to LeBron, anyway.

Really?  He identified that James would sign a short extension with the Cavs instead of the full one?  A style of extension that until James, Wade and Bosh signed theirs nobody had done?  Really?!?  Sure you did there slugger.  I believe you, thousands wouldn’t, but I do*

*Too bad for Knicks fans, the only other person who believes Thomas is Knicks owner James Dolan…

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