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?

By Michael Lee |  October 2, 2007; 7:21 PM ET
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Comments

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Yoooo...

Posted by: Jamison | October 2, 2007 8:24 PM

Mike, Mike, Mike....

Com'on man, you can do better then this.

And the Wiz have enough problems, don't go blaming them for Thomas's stupidity as well. ;)

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | October 2, 2007 8:38 PM

Maybe Dolan wants to keep screwing up so Latrell Sprewell can come back and light him up again...

Posted by: iceberg | October 2, 2007 11:54 PM

Isiah Thomas is a joke as a coach or manager. He was a joke as an owner too, of the defunct CBL. I don't care what the Knicks do, I actually hope they stink the place up even worse. But for the good of the league Isiah Thomas needs to be suspended for three months.

Posted by: rgz | October 3, 2007 7:42 AM

Hey Mike. Do you think you could do a story on Ted Leonis (spelling???) and his stake in the Wizards, if there still is any?

What has Abe really told him? From Ted's involvement of bringing MJ here and the fallout after? It seems like he does not have the passion for the Caps like he would have if he had the Wizards.

I think he would be one heck of an owner for the Wizards, if given a chance. Do you think you could do something (story or blog) on this "business deal" between Ted and Abe? I have been asking Ivan to do something on it in past blogs, but I guess he isn't able to do at the moment. Thanks..

Posted by: Bullets Fever #1 | October 3, 2007 9:20 AM

Please, for the love of god, Michael and Ivan -- can you refrain from using "impact" as a verb?

The word "affect" would do quite nicely here; not everything in the world has an "impact."

And please, please, please stop using the word "issues" when what what you mean to say is "problems."

That The Post, one of the leading newspapers in the world, should be intentionally abusing the language is just sad and shameful.

Posted by: TK | October 3, 2007 9:39 AM

Nice idea, Michael, but you know as well as we all do that Dolan was going to extend Isiah. If it wasn't the Wizards game, it would have been another game, or just the fact that Isiah showed up at work one day in a nice suit.

Posted by: Sean | October 3, 2007 9:53 AM

J.A. Adande had it right on ESPN.com, Stern needs to discipline Dolan and Thomas. This scandal is yet another bad mark during a bad NBA offseason. Thank goodness the season is starting soon!

Posted by: George Templeton | October 3, 2007 10:11 AM

TK: welcome to blogging in the U.S.A.

Posted by: oddjob | October 3, 2007 10:24 AM

You're right, TK. The headline has been changed. Thanks for your input.

Posted by: Michael Lee | October 3, 2007 11:00 AM

Interesting "what-if", Mike. Don't let the trash talkers here get to you ;)

We all know the Larry Brown experiment crashed and burned in spectacular fashion, but I'd hardly lay that at Isiah's doorstep as a failure he should own up to. Brown was and is a good coach. IMO, the failure there was in thinking that one coach could come in and heal a franchise that's damaged from top to bottom.

Posted by: DGack | October 3, 2007 1:01 PM

I've always told people that the Steve Francis game and the "OMG, WTF, Mike Ruffin" game have changed the course of the eastern conference.

The SF game helped the knicks look better than they were and got IT an extension....and I think the OMG WTF MR game actually caused TOR to play the red hot Nets instead of letting them play the broken down Wizards. Who knows what a confident TOR club might have done in the second round.

Posted by: Mike P | October 3, 2007 1:12 PM

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