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Isiah takes ESPN analyst to task

Knicks GM/coach rips Anthony for draft criticism

Posted: Wednesday October 18, 2006 4:40PM; Updated: Wednesday October 18, 2006 5:15PM
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Isiah Thomas is still sore about criticism he received for drafting Renaldo Balkman.
Isiah Thomas is still sore about criticism he received for drafting Renaldo Balkman.

NEW YORK -- The surprising play of rookie forward Renaldo Balkman this preseason has Knicks GM/coach Isiah Thomas feeling good. And he's letting ESPN analyst Greg Anthony, a former Knick, hear about it.

Still upset over Anthony's draft night criticism after the Knicks selected the unheralded Balkman with the No. 20 pick, Thomas ripped his fellow former point guard Wednesday.

"This so-called former Knick, on draft night with millions of people watching, had the audacity to take me to task on a player that I'm pretty sure he had never seen before in his life," Thomas said. "But he stands on national television and talks about a kid he has absolutely no idea about. I'm just glad that all of New York doesn't think like Greg Anthony."

Thomas went on to question Anthony's credentials as a TV commentator, and even took a slap at his 12-year NBA playing career.

"Greg Anthony should never ever be in a position to question myself on anything about basketball," Thomas said. "I do remember the kind of player he was. I'll leave it at that.

Balkman, a 6-8 forward from South Carolina, has played well during New York's first three exhibition games. He had 11 points and seven boards in 16 minutes against the Nets in his debut, and had nine points, seven rebounds and two steals in 13 minutes in Tuesday night's exhibition win over the Celtics. His hustle and energy even won over the Madison Square Garden crowd, which gave him a rousing ovation as he left the floor.

With Balkman off to a good start, Thomas felt free to vent some of his pent-up anger.

"This is between Greg and I," Thomas said in a lengthy diatribe about Anthony to the media after the Knicks practice. "The things he said on draft night ... after all the good solid work we had done in the draft ... for him to take that position he took ... I thought he was way way way out of bounds."

Thomas , who was booed by the New York crowd and widely panned by other ESPN commentators on draft night, said he was singling out Anthony because of his status as a former Knicks player. He said he hadn't spoken to Anthony, but would love to in the future.

"I just thought he was very unfair to the Knicks organization," Thomas said. "It would be different had he not worn a Knick uniform. But for a guy who claims to have been a Knick, to treat the Knicks the way he treated us that night ... I know a Piston would never do that. A Celtic would never do that. A Laker would never do that. It wouldn't happen. It just goes to show you what we're dealing with."

Thomas went on to refer to Anthony several more times during the remainder of the 15-minute session with reporters, sometimes even on unrelated questions.

When asked whether he could see Balkman someday defending LeBron James or Tracy McGrady, Thomas replied, "Wait a minute, hold on now ... you can run him out there but he'll probably get stepped on a little bit ... Unlike Greg Anthony, I do have respect for others."

When asked about the Knicks' dismal season a year ago, and what role all the injuries played, Thomas said, "We all were in a funk last year ... Greg Anthony was in a funk."

Later, when talking about Balkman's ability to handle the ball, a reporter jokingly asked if he had a better handle than Greg Anthony. "Most definitely," Thomas said. "Greg could only go left."

Anthony declined to comment through an ESPN spokesman.