Analysis: Is Isiah Passing Litmus Test?

By Jerald LeVon Hoover
Updated: March 12, 2007

NEW YORK — We are a little past the midway point in the marathon NBA season and believe it or not, the New York Knicks are in the midst of the playoff race.

Never mind the fact that they play in the junior varsity division (Atlantic Division) of the league where only one team, Toronto Raptors at 33-29 is above sea level.

As head coach and President Isiah Thomas continues to say, “I like the direction of our team. I like where we’re at.” In times past when Thomas would utter those words with a straight face no less, some may have thought he needed to be examined by a very special doctor with a nice leather couch.

But, one has to give him a load of credit because he essentially has taken the very same 23 win team of last year and made them and enjoyable product.

The proof is in the effort of the team. Sure, there are games in which they start out of the blocks as if they’re mired in quick sand and thus are prone to falling behind in double digits.

The bite and fight though never leaves these guys. There have been games where the Knicks have been down by as many as 30 points and they’ve made strong efforts to make the games interesting.

These Knicks make going to the Garden fun and exciting for the fans. No longer is The Garden a place for other teams to get well at as teams used to ‘get well’ when they came to New York.

Not only are the Knicks playing well at home–they just recently surrendered a seven game home winning streak with a 100-99 loss to the Seattle Sonics, but they’ve played very well on the road.

In fact, at the beginning of the season the Knicks had a better road record than home. The boos would cascade from the rafters and chants of “Fiyah, Thomas” were heard in the upper seats.

The credit sure goes to the players as they’re the ones that are making shots, taking charges and breaking sweats. But, without them having a leader that cares, shares and declares the righteous ways of doing the do on the court without being berated, ridiculed and even chastised publicly none of this success would take place.

Thus subsequently the team is much closer than in past seasons. Starting center Eddy Curry who made a major case for being an All-Star this year came out in defense of his beloved head coach and said, “If Isiah is fired at the end of the year, I don’t want to be here next year.”

Larry Brown would have never gotten that type of sentiment.

Should Thomas be this year’s coach of the year in the NBA? Probably not especially with the Little General (Avery Johnson) in Dallas doing what he’s doing. But, his name will no doubt be in the running for such an honor.

Overall, it’s pretty safe to say that the team has made ‘significant progress’ as Knicks owner Mr. James Dolan was credited as saying what he wanted from this year’s team or else Thomas was finished as a Knicks employee.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Shortly after this article went to press, the Knicks officially gave Thomas a multiyear contract extension. Terms have not been disclosed

GAME NOTES: The Knicks organization recently hosted their eighth bowling feast at Chelsea Piers. From the looks of things a good time was had by all as the fund raiser was to benefit Children in Crisis in The Tri-State area. Reserve center Jerome James was the life of the party and arguably the Knicks’ best bowler as he recorded strike after strike after strike.