Posted: Monday December 11, 2006 9:17AM; Updated: Monday December 11, 2006 3:26PM
Isiah has said he has a plan, has said he's been acquiring bits and pieces in order to make whatever moves are needed to improve the team, but almost every move has ended up backfiring fabulously, to the point that last week the Garden faithful alternately chanted "Fire Isiah," "Fire Thomas," "Fire Dolan" and "We Want Nate" (when Isiah left Nate Robinson rooted to the bench in the second half against Washington). Many of Philly GM Billy King's moves have been equally as quizzical. The Knicks famously have an out-of-control salary situation, but it's rarely mentioned that the Sixers have one of the NBA's top-five salary totals this season.
Isiah Thomas and Billy King are obviously special talents, two men who have absorbed the NBA's luxury tax rules and seemed to completely disregard them while simultaneously assembling teams that can't win. While Boston, Dallas, Minnesota have been floated as the leading possible destinations for Iverson, New York and Philly are two teams destined to belong together, either to watch each other sink to the bottom of the NBA or -- and perhaps I'm being too hopeful here -- save each other's franchises.
If there's one thing I've learned while living in New York City, it's that the fans here love a winner first and foremost, and secondly, they love a guy who always tries hard. For instance, Nate Robinson has been incredibly inconsistent, but his spirit and energy have infected the fans to the point that they overlook his variable contributions. Look at A-Rod: He finished the season hitting an insouciant .290 with 35 home runs and 121 RBIs, and the fans still want to run him out of the Bronx.
If ever there was a player born to re-energize the rowdy crowd at Madison Square Garden, Iverson is that guy. A Marbury/Iverson backcourt would have size and speed, and Eddy Curry is quietly turning into a consistent performer -- he's had at least 20 points in each of the last nine games. There's your true inside-outside combo, which in the East should be enough to make the postseason. And as for Iverson getting along with Isiah the coach, Iverson has always had an admiration for Thomas, so much so that he named his son after him. They may not be a championship-level team, but Iverson will make them immensely more fun to watch than the current Knicks, and they'll fill MSG once again.
To get Iverson, Thomas would surely have to part with some of his good young prospects and a first-round pick. The Sixers could offload salary on the Knicks, pick up a draft pick and some young players (David Lee? Channing Frye?) and go full-bore into next summer's Greg Oden derby.
So the Knicks could rekindle the spark at Madison Square Garden, the Sixers could get far enough under the cap to completely rebuild within a year, and two of the NBA's premier franchises would be on the road to recovery. The problem here? It makes sense, too much sense.
At least where the Knicks and Sixers are involved.
Lang Whitaker is the online editor of SLAM magazine and writes daily at SLAMonline.com.