Here is what we
know about the Knicks last season: The players didn't like each other, the
general manager didn't like the coach, and the coach didn't like anybody. Put
it all together, and New York had its lowest win total (23) in 20 years.
The coach, Larry
Brown, has been replaced by the G.M., Isiah Thomas, who is charged with
repairing some fractured egos. "The first thing I need to do is instill
confidence back into the players," says Thomas. "I have to make them
smile again, like basketball again."
The player most
in need of a pick-me-up is point guard Stephon Marbury, whose feuds with Brown
last season provided constant fodder for the New York tabloids. Marbury scored
just 16.3 points per game, his lowest average since he was a rookie, and
averaged a career-worst 6.4 assists per game. Thomas has installed a
read-and-react offense that allows more ball and player movement, giving
Marbury the kind of freedom he lacked under Brown, who tried to turn him into a
pass-first floor leader.
Marbury more freedom will keep the rest of the Knicks happy is another
question. Thomas has long been Marbury's staunchest (some would say only) ally.
Now Thomas is betting his job--he's operating under a "win or else"
ultimatum from owner James Dolan--that a rejuvenated Marbury will lead the team
back to the playoffs. Given that the change at the top didn't come with a
makeover of the roster, don't expect this season's story to have a happy
Starting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
(15th in East)
95.6 (20th in NBA)
with the Knicks)