Wednesday , Nov , 14 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

In Defense of Isiah Thomas

With the Knicks in town, I went to the Suns game with Bluntman.  We hit our regular spot, Seamus McCaffrey’s, which pours the best pint in town.  We met up with some friends and had a good time.   

Who is Bluntman?  He is my secret source and his pseudonym is a homage to the Jay and Silent Bob characters from Chasing Amy.  In that film, Ben Affleck is a comic book writer who pays Jay and Silent Bob for their stories, which he turned into the stories for the “Adventures of Bluntman and Chronic” series.  Since my Bluntman has the functional equivalent of a fifth-grade education and therefore has difficulty speaking (much less writing) in complete sentences, I take his insightful quips and turn them into paragraphs.  I buy him beers; he says funny things; I write them. It’s a win-win situation. 

Without any further ado, the Reasons that I like Zeke

1. Allowing the Suns to unload the oppressive contracts of Penny and Starbury. 

2. Giving the Suns Kurt Thomas.  Everyone says it is going to hurt the Suns’ playoff chances, but I disagree a bit.  The key to slowing down the Spurs is to bottle up Mr. Longoria and Manu “the Machine” Ginobili.  TD Is going to get his 30 and 15 when Amaré guards him.  With a good defender on him, like Thomas, he can be held down to 24 and 12.  Is that worth $8 million a year plus the $8 million luxury tax?  Probably not.  If the Suns had crazy money like MSG, though, they would have kept Thomas.

3. Jalen Rose.  I was thrilled over this acquisition last year.  For some reason, though, he was in the doghouse very early on.  By mid-season, he knew he was never going to play again.  When the team took a time-out, he was more interested in watching some fan play trivia for a $500 gift certificate or watching the mustard-ketchup-relish race.

On the negative side: 
  1. He has a knack for inciting brawls;
  1. Racist use of the word “b*tch”;
  1. Stockpiling “me-first” talents and athletics runners, then teaming them up with plodding bruisers;
  1. He played with Bill Laimbeer.

The breaking news is that the Knicks may be negotiating some sort of buy-out with Marbury.  At the risk of being called a Suns homer yet again, dumping him and that contract was, quite clearly, one of the best moves the Suns management ever made.  Marbury came over when the Suns shipped Jason Kidd out after his domestic violence incident.  At the time, they were just looking for someone who was willing to play point guard. 

Marbury was on the way to becoming a “pass-first sometimes” point guard during his tenure in Phoenix.  He had that big shot against the Spurs in Game 1 of the 2003 playoffs (yes, Phoenix lost that series but we had some brief hope).  He was recovering from some issues and then had a DUI and things just were not right with him.  He left the PHX in 2003 and was replaced by Steve Nash the next season.  Not a bad change for the Suns, even though we did have that one horrible year between the eighth seed in the playoffs and the first seed in the playoffs. 

Apparently, he got lost on the trip from the hotel to the gym this afternoon.  You’d think he remember the streets a little bit better than that, but we later found out that he had decided to take his ball, go home and … I don’t know … play some pick-up with Spike Lee?   This may have been in response to being taken out of the starting rotation or the looming trade/buy-out.  I heard a clip on the radio in which Isiah said it was a “normal” November for Stephon in that regard.  “Normal” like his summer TV appearances?  “Normal” like his SUV antics? 

It is sort of a chicken-and-egg situation: Does Isiah cause these problems or is he doing a wonderful job just keeping these guys together?  Or, perhaps, this is all just the perfect storm.  For example, Zach Randolph going to New York – the guy could not stay out of trouble in Portland.  Remember the story from last March in which he used bereavement leave to skip a game and go to a strip club?  He says he is mourning the passing of his grandmother, and I don’t want to speak ill of the deceased but what in his recent past suggests he’ll be too upset? 

Maybe it is just that birds of a feather tend to flock together. 

As for the game, the Suns were slightly above mediocre, but that is all they had to be. 

Nate Robinson needs to get more playing time.  When he was on the court, he played with more energy than his other four teammates combined (which, honestly, isn’t saying too much).  He also hit a couple of ridiculous shots.  He played slightly-more-than-adequate defense (at least for his PT-competitors) and he had a couple of nice drives.  He disappeared from time to time, making me wonder whether he was in, but he did not stay out of sight for extended periods of time like David Lee or Renaldo Balkman.  Sometimes, though, you’ve got to believe he wanted more than five minutes as a Sun after his draft-and-trade. 

Curry has some skills.  His foul trouble, however, likely saved his life.  During the first six minutes of the game, he was doing his best to run wind sprints between the three-point circles as the other nine players went up and down the court.  The game program had him listed at 285, but he’s not a biscuit under 300.  Between shots of oxygen, he had some nice offensive plays and took up enough room on defense to be slightly disruptive. 

For the most part, though, the offensive production was yawn-inducing.  There was one possession where the point bounced the ball thirty feet from the hoop for ten seconds, passed to Malik Rose (the only guy out there with a bigger butt than Curry) on the right elbow for a turn-around jumper.  Oddly enough, it missed. 

Worse than that, the Suns out-rebounded the Knicks.  The Knicks have four guys at 6’11” or taller.  The Suns have Amaré Stoudemire and Sean Marks at 6’10”. 

I did not realize how strong Brian Skinner was, though.  He was able to push Curry around on defense.  Well, until the refs starting calling fouls on him for doing so. 

Stoudemire almost came close to adequately defending Curry, making a couple of good steals when fronting Curry and helping with some weak-side blocks.  One play, however, typified his lack of attention on defense.  He came around Curry on the block to tip the entry pass, knocking it back out to the passer.  In the meantime, Curry scooted over to the other side of the lane while Stoudemire strutted over the tipped pass.  The ball flew over Stoudemire’s confused expression for an easy Curry hoop. 

Knicks fans, take it from a long-suffering Arizona Cardinals fan: Your team will never get better with Dolan and Thomas running things.  You’ve got enough talented players, enough loyal fans and high enough ticket prices.   

I’m going to tell you a story that sums up the situation you are in.  I have a good friend I met about four years ago when he moved to Phoenix from San Francisco.  He is a big football fan.  In the second year of Denny Green’s reign of terror, he was telling me how excited he was about the Cards’ upcoming season.  “They have a lot of good talent,” he said.  “The players are learning Denny’s system,” he said.  “I don’t expect too much, but they might be able to make a run for the playoffs,” he said.   

I told him he was listening to way too many media Kool-Aid drinkers and that he shouldn’t waste his time giving a damn until the Bidwells sold the team.  I ended the discussion with, “Look, I’ve seen this way too many times, and you just don’t have the experience that I do.”  I told him we were being lied to and that he should not believe it.  The Cards went 6-10 that season and then the next season was Denny’s tirade that has become a Coors Light commercial.  The season that highlighted the Chicago Monday Night game, Bluntman bet me that the Cards would win ten or more games.  I took that bet.  At halftime of the Chicago, with the Cards up twenty, I called and asked him if he wanted to go double-or-nothing.  The smartest move he’s ever made was not taking that bet. 

At least Denny did something memorable during his stay in Arizona and was able to make a Coors Light commercial. 

At least you Knicks fans will always have the Anucha Brown-Sanders Trial.  Let me buy you a frost-brewed Coors Light.