By Russ Bengtson

Is this seriously being discussed?

I suppose it is, because otherwise Marc “The Animal” Berman wouldn’t be writing about it. With any sort of “good guys first” dictum thrown out the window following the Zach Randolph trade, Isiah Thomas seems hell-bent on turning the Knicks into the inmate team from The Longest Yard. The latest rumor, as laid out in the story above, has Zeke possibly dealing third-year forward David Lee, the human double-double (and one of the few guys on the Knicks who actually knows how to play basketball the right way—no Larry Brown) for former All-Star Ron Artest, who has somehow managed to wear out his welcome with the MALOOFS, for God’s sake.

As with Randolph, you can’t question Artest’s talents on the floor. He’s a stellar perimeter defender, a better-than-average scorer. But as with Randolph, you absolutely should question Artest’s actions off of it. His list of transgressions is as long as it is distinguished. They’ve been exhaustively cataloged here (and some can probably be referenced by the links on the right). I love Ron-Ron as much as the next guy (provided the next guy isn’t from Detroit) but my God, don’t bring him here.

Like Randolph (and Stephon Marbury, and Eddy Curry, and pretty much everyone else on the Knicks), Artest could be a valuable piece on a team with solid veteran leadership, someone like a Tim Duncan or a Chauncey Billups, All-Stars who are not willing to tolerate anything that would distract from the ultimate goal of winning a championship. It’s why guys like Stephen Jackson and Rasheed Wallace have had their biggest successes in San Antonio and Detroit respectively.

But the Knicks don’t have anyone like that, the classy veteran All-Star who absolutely demands respect. (Malik Rose is the closest thing they have to one, which is downright terrifying.) Instead, it seems that Isiah prefers to fill that role himself—which is all well and good, but he hasn’t played an NBA game in over a decade—and fill the entire roster with cast-offs and damaged goods. In the meantime, the team desperately needs a powerful on-court personality to lead them—one in a uniform, not a suit.

If the Knicks do acquire Artest, it will absolutely represent an increase in on-court talent. A starting five of Curry, Randolph, Artest, Marbury and Jamal Crawford should be enough to get the Knicks into the playoffs in the anemic East. But it doesn’t put them any closer to actually winning a championship, and it puts another key ingredient into an ego timebomb of a roster that is destined for an ugly end. Can’t wait for the season to start.

(By the way, whatever happened to going after KG or Kobe? Heck, try and get Yi Jianlian.)