How The Wizards Affected The Knicks
Where would Isiah Thomas and the New York Knicks be today if not for the Washington Wizards?
It's the first question that came to mind after I finished writing about the sexual harassment verdict that worked out in favor of former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders to the tune of $11.6 million.
Madison Square Garden and Cablevision chairman James L. Dolan stood behind Thomas, the franchise's most recognizable face, for a trial that did serious damage to the (financial) bottom line and the reputation of an organization that discovers new ways to embarrass itself. That probably wouldn't have been the case had Thomas been fired last season - as Dolan threatened to do.
What do the Wizards have to do with this? Don't see the connection?
Let me help with a bit of history lesson.
When the Knicks fired Larry Brown last June, Dolan started a campfire under Thomas's leather recliner and forced him to coach. Dolan issued an ultimatum and declared that Thomas would be fired if the team didn't show 'significant improvement.'
Do you know when and where Dolan found that nebulous 'significant improvement?'
In the Verizon Center on March 10, right around the time when Steve Francis hopped on a scorers' table and folded his arms after nailing a buzzer-beating three-pointer that gave the Knicks a 90-89 victory over the local five. The win put the Knicks alone in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and Thomas joked after the game that he wanted to drink some Champagne to celebrate.
The Knicks held on to that spot for about 24 hours. But it didn't stop Dolan from giving Thomas a contract extension, stating that Knicks had "grown tremendously" even though the team was just 29-34 at the time. Dolan was obviously looking to find some reason, any reason, to keep Thomas.
Being a "playoff team," even for a day, was enough for Dolan.
But had the Wizards not blown a three-point lead with 12 seconds remaining that night, Dolan would've had a hard time trying to justify an extension to a frustrated fan base - especially when you consider that the Knicks went 4-15 after Thomas got his deal.
If Dolan had fired Thomas last season (you figure he still would've tried to find a reason to keep him, though) chances are this sexual harassment case never would've gone to trial and the Knicks wouldn't have to deal with an enormous legal disaster.
More than 80 percent of fans polled on ESPN.com, believe Thomas should be fired for this latest offense. But you have to remember, if Dolan hasn't already decided to remove Thomas -given the Knicks' bloated payroll, zero winning seasons and zero playoff victories since Thomas became team president in December 2003 - why would he do it right now?
Dolan has obviously hitched his wagon to Thomas and plans to ride him until the wheels fell off, no matter how badly the team looks in the process.
Dolan is loyal to his guys and has had no trouble opening his checkbook to cover up Thomas's blunders as a basketball executive (Larry Brown, Jerome James, Jalen Rose). The Knicks plan on appealing the verdicts handed down on Tuesday, but Dolan shouldn't have any trouble writing another check for Thomas's personal misconduct, right?
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