Links: How Isiah Didn’t Get Fired Yesterday

by March 27, 2008
7

by Lang Whitaker

So I had an interesting afternoon yesterday. I was sitting here at my desk, minding my own business, when I got an email from a guy I know who knows many things. He’s a good person to know, particularly for a journalist, because he’s plugged in. I’m plugged in too, but to a different outlet. And whenever either of us hears things that can help the other person, we pass the info along.

I know a couple of people like this, and these kind of relationships are key to what I do and what SLAM does. And occasionally, you’ll stumble into some information.

Anyway, yesterday I was sitting here finishing off my column for Hawks.com (looks like my speech worked, by the way), when I got an email.

It read, simply:

I think Isiah got it today.

To the point, yes. But coming from who it came from, I knew it was coming from an informed perspective.

First thing I did was a google news search on “Isiah Thomas” to see if anyone else was reporting that he’d been fired. They weren’t.

So I gave My Guy, the person who had sent me the email, a call. From what he’d heard, there were some curious things going on yesterday morning at the Knicks shootaround. Like it only lasting 20 minutes, this just a day after the Knicks canceled practice entirely. Even weirder, apparently none of the players knew it was a 20 minute shootaround — he heard they were sent back to the locker room while Isiah went off somewhere, and after waiting around for a while they all just left on their own, without hearing from Isiah again.

Hmm. I started looking around online for some news. Who might have covered shootaround and already written about it? Marc Berman comes through in the clutch. But according to Berman, who was there, Isiah spoke to the media and planned it as an 18-minute shootaround.

Talked to My Guy again. He said something strange was going on, he was certain. He didn’t think Isiah would be coaching last night.

Should I do a post about it? My Guy had a serious source, and I trusted the intel. I actually wrote a post, about how something odd seemed to be underway. But you know what I didn’t want to be? I didn’t want to be wrong. So I deleted the post and headed to the Garden. I hadn’t planned on going to last night’s Knicks/Heat exhibition game, but I figured I might as well swing by on the way home from the office, not only to show my face but also to see if anything was shaking.

I got to the Garden at 6:00 p.m., just as the locker rooms opened. Went in the Knicks locker room and it seemed like business as usual. I asked around, and nobody seemed to suspect anything out of the ordinary (well, as ordinary as things can be in Knicks-land right now). The only player in the locker room was Nate Robinson, and he was on his Blackberry the entire time I was in there.

Around 6:30, I heard that Isiah was about to speak to the media, so Russ and I went down to the press conference room. Isiah was sitting in a folding chair in the middle of the room, and there were 27 reporters circled around him. Nobody asked about Donnie Walsh, and nobody asked about his job security.

There were a few interesting moments, though. Someone asked about teams tanking games late in the season, and Isiah explained that there was a balance to strike, that you have to develop your younger players at some point and figure out a way to evaluate the players you have “contractual obligations” to.

Someone else asked if preparing for a game against this Heat team, with all their D-League guys, was less exciting than prepping for a game against Shaq and Wade. “The good thing and the bad thing about me,” Isiah said, “is that I love basketball. Twenty-four hours a day, basketball consumes my every thought.”

(Well, basketball and popcorn, I wanted to point out. But I didn’t.)

Sitting there listening to Isiah talk, he was rather engaging. He can speak passionately about basketball, even when his team is 31 games under .500 and his job seems to be in jeopardy. He handles himself well, knows how to answer whatever is thrown at him. And in a way, I felt sorry for him last night, because he’s in the middle of a huge gossip storm and he’s trying to keep his head above water. (Later on I remembered that he pretty much got himself into this situation, and I didn’t feel so bad.) Still, I told Russ that if I was James Dolan or some other prospective employer, I can totally see how Isiah would be able to make a convincing argument for himself as the man who could solve all your problems and get your business on the right track.

Doesn’t mean he’d be correct, though.

As the game was getting set to tip off, I went home to watch the Cavs/Hornets game.

As it turned out, My Guy and I were both wrong. Isiah was, and is, still coaching the Knicks.

For now, at least.

• Here’s a cool site someone sent me a link to today. It’s called muxtape.com, and you can create your own mixtape and upload it online and email the link to people, who can then listen to your mixtape over the net. Looks pretty good. I’d be using here at my desk today except our internet here in the SLAM Dome is powered by gerbils and is not fast enough for this new-fangled technology. Seems like a good way to share whatever you’re listening to, though. I’ll upload some stuff one of these days and pass it along to you guys. And if any of you guys think you can impress everyone with your mixtape, make one and send me the link and I’ll post it. I have high hopes for a possible mixtape from Sam or DJ Toney Blare.

• Speaking of Toney Blare, I left the Knicks/Heat game and went home and did indeed watch the Cavs/Hornets game. You guys know what happened by now. I’ve been on the Hornets bandwagon for a few weeks now, and I still think they’re going to surprise some people in the postseason, but there was one thing last night that I thought was kind of strange.

The Cavs had the ball, down 1, with about 15 seconds to go in the game. They inbound the ball to LeBron James. Everyone in the world knew that was coming. And who do the Hornets send out to guard LeBron? Peja Stojakovic? Yes, Peja Stojakovic! I understand that Peja’s having a good season and has been able to log a lot of minutes lately, but he can’t guard LeBron. Most people can’t guard LeBron, I understand, but Peja really, really can’t guard LeBron, especially with the game on the line and your team needing a stop against a guy who is going to try and drive to the basket.

What happened? LeBron got the ball, went right around Peja and got a layup to put Cleveland ahead. David West and Chris Paul bailed them out, but I couldn’t believe Byron Scott left Peja on an island out there. Then I started thinking about it…who else could they have put on LeBron? Chris Paul is too small, Tyson Chandler’s too tall, David West is too slow, Julian Wright is too young, Bonzi Wells is too bonzi. If the Hornets can pick up a 6-5ish defensive specialist this summer, I think they’ll be set.

• Linkstigator Brendan sent along this link to Andrew Bogut giving himself high fives last night against the Hawks.

I was watching when that happened, and the best part about it (which isn’t shown on the clip) was actually the next free throw, which Bogut missed. The Hawks apparently sent one of their own invisible guys over to box Bogut out, and Bogut was able to dunk home his own missed free throw without a lane violation, which rarely happens.

• One last thought: With Chris Webber retiring, is he a Hall of Famer? Before you answer, remember that it’s a “basketball” Hall of Fame, so they take into account not just NBA performance but also college and anything else. And CWebb’s college career apparently never happened, after the NCAA wiped his Michigan records off the books.