The first Knicks game I went to was Game 5 of the 1992 Eastern Conference semifinals when the Knicks beat the Detroit Pistons 94-87. I was 11 years old and since then I’ve been hooked.
That day, despite 31 points from Isiah Thomas – including 19 in a row in the 4th quarter – the Knicks knocked the Pistons out of contention. It officially signified that the Bad Boys were dead, replaced by a newer, younger version. A few years later Isiah could have joined the new mean team but turned down a chance to chase a title in the Big Apple, opting instead for retirement.
At the time the retirement didn’t register on my radar screen. Not a blip. I was too consumed with the Chicago Bulls to give a crap about Isiah Thomas. Dave Checketts is responsible for building the team that sparked my interest in the Knicks. James Dolan wasn’t in the picture. I, like many other fans, were here before him. Many others will be here after he’s gone. He didn’t make me love the Knicks and he won’t make me quit them either.
I’m a true fan and that means I float in the clouds and also swim in the abyss, even if all I experience until the day James Dolan dies is the latter. And since I’ll always be here for good or ill, I worry that our shared destiny as true Knicks fans is to suffer with an owner who has the resources to be beloved but the temperament to be astoundingly obstinate and foolhardy.
Isiah Thomas ultimately decided he did want to join the Knicks. He came and he burned the Garden down to rubble. Then he laid in the weeds for awhile but now he’s back in full affect. You know, the one who brought you the two worst seasons in team history? The man who brought you max mid-level contracts for Jerome James and Jared Jeffries is back. The man who brought you Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis and Zach Randolph and Vin Baker twice and Jamal Crawford’s $10 million deal is back. Larry Brown. Anucha Brown Sanders. Draft picks squandered. League high payroll. Back.
And it hurts all the more after this Summer when fans who bitterly entrenched themselves in divergent perspectives on Donnie Walsh’s plan, finally, for a flutter, could come together and agree that things were getting better. It lasted about 5 weeks.
It appeared to fans that they were making their way out of the desert but we all recognize now that those 5 weeks were just a mirage and we’re still stuck in the parched wasteland.
It isn’t about Isiah Thomas though. Everyone knows that the man is a failure. Not the least of whom is James Dolan. He knew (or pretended to understand) the Knicks’ performance under Thomas was unacceptable when he demanded “evident progress” and forced him to coach the mishmash of players he assembled. Isiah coached that team to a 29-34 record and James Dolan rewarded him with a contract extension before the Knicks ultimately tanked the rest of the year. It begs the question, what does Donnie Walsh have to do to earn an extension? Will the inevitable playoff run suffice? Call me skeptical. Anyway, Dolan certainly knew (or pretended to understand) that Isiah wore out his welcome when David Stern forced Dolan to push him aside. What did Dolan think all of that was about?
Dolan knows what Isiah did. Dolan knows he hasn’t witnessed a playoff game since April 25th, 2004. Dolan knows he bankrolled the most expensive payroll in the NBA and a $11.5 million sexual harassment settlement to boot.
I guess what I’m trying to tell you is, whatever what fans do, it won’t matter. It doesn’t matter what the media writes. A boycott won’t work: Fans like to think we’re financing all the awful contracts but James Dolan has infinite money and fans can’t hurt him by spurning his team at the gates. The Knicks are his toy. You can’t tell him what to do with it.
I know it’s futile but I want this post to serve as a petition. Sign your name name or whatever handle you want to use in the comments section. If we get a nice critical mass I’ll pass it along somehow to the people at MSG. There’s now a tab at the top of this site where you can access this post/petition in the future.
Dear James Dolan,
We know that the Knicks are your team. But your decisions affect us. Please do not allow Isiah Thomas have any more influence than he has over the last 2 years. Please do not bring him back in any kind of decision making role. Not now, not ever. Please do not take heed of his advice instead of the people who have proven to be successful in the league.