Thursday, August 12, 2010

Isiah nixes Knicks? Not so fast

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - Isiah Thomas' status in New York is all about semantics now.

Consultant or not, it's clear Thomas still has the ear of Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, a scary thought for Knicks fans who regard the former All-Star guard as a pariah who ruined their favorite franchise in the 4 1/2 years he was the team's basketball chief.

A controversial reunion between Thomas and the Knicks that stunned Gotham was spiked by NBA commissioner David Stern on Wednesday.

On the surface Stern was concerned about a possible conflict of interest since Zeke is still the head coach at Florida International University, but you can't help feeling the commish was throwing Dolan a life raft, trying to save the Knicks owner from himself.

Thomas was allowed to bow out gracefully, releasing a statement that he was declining the consultant position because of possible red tape. NBA bylaws state that league personnel are forbidden from having contact with players who aren't eligible for the draft.

"After speaking with commissioner (David) Stern and Knicks executives, it has become apparent that my new agreement violates certain NBA bylaws," Thomas said. "Because of this, I have decided to rescind my contract with the team."

Now let's be honest, FIU is not exactly Kentucky or Duke and with Thomas at the helm likely never will be. But, by pointing to his involvement with underclassman not eligible for the upcoming draft, Stern was able to nix the deal that the Knicks announced last Friday.

"We have been informed by the Knicks that Isiah Thomas has rescinded his consulting agreement with the team," Stern said in a statement. "As a result, it is not necessary for the league to take any formal action on the proposed arrangement. However, we have reminded the Knicks of NBA rules that prohibit team personnel, including consultants, from having contact with players not eligible for the draft."

New York fans are probably at the florist in droves today firing off thank you bouquets to Stern but they best be wary. This ruling only buys Dolan time to come to his senses, something he has shown no penchant for in the past.

In fact, Dolan has already informed us all that Isiah will always have "strong ties" to him.

"Although I'm disappointed that Isiah will not be working with the Knicks as a consultant, I continue to believe in his basketball knowledge, including his ability to judge talent," Dolan said. "He's a good friend of mine and of the organization and I will continue to solicit his views. He will always have strong ties to me and the team."

And let's be honest, Thomas had already been working as a consultant to the team. Remember, it was Thomas who "helped" the Knicks during free agency when he, not current president Donnie Walsh, was dispatched to Ohio to speak with LeBron James' camp, and Walsh was actually forced to single out Thomas during a press conference to announce the signing of Amare Stoudemire.

With Stern's blessing or not it's conceivable Dolan and Thomas have already agreed to a wink-wink deal and Isiah will put the wheels in motion to leave FIU, while Dolan figures out a way to gracefully push Walsh out the door.

It's certainly clear Thomas would like a second chance to clean up the mess he created when he was team president from December 2003 through April 2008.

"One of the biggest regrets of my life is that the Knicks didn't perform up to the standards the fans had every right to expect while I was in charge," Thomas said. "I take full responsibility for that."

"Consultant" is just a job title. With or without it, Dolan will find a way to keep Thomas involved with the Knicks. Stern simply can't legislate taking advice from a friend and he certainly can't force Dolan to make prudent decisions.

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