Knicks

Schmeelk in the Stands: Reality Check

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James Dolan (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images) and Isiah Thomas (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

James Dolan (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images) and Isiah Thomas (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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I had the same emotional reaction that every Knicks fan did when I heard that Isiah Thomas was rehired by the Knicks in the vague role of a consultant: “How can anyone be so stupid?”

The first realization I came to was that trying to figure out why James Dolan did this is pointless. Getting inside the head of the man that runs Cablevision and the Garden is a fruitless endeavor with no hope of success. He and Isiah have a connection, and no matter how much he blunders, Dolan will always trust him. There is no why. There are just the facts.

Audio: Frank Isola talks Isiah with Boomer & Carton

Of course, the scary implication of all this is that the Knicks owner is an illogical man that makes rash decisions on whims (I guess we already knew this, but this confirms it). There can be no sound reason to bring back the man that destroyed the franchise right after the new GM finally set the ship right, and is sailing the franchise on a good bearing for the first time in a decade. It’s borderline lunacy. I don’t care what role Thomas has.

The second thing that clicked for me was this: the hire will have little or no affect on the Knicks in the short term. Once Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni survived the initial shock of the hire, they will remain in ultimate control in the short term. According to reports, it seems like Isiah has been an unpaid consultant for the last couple years anyway, and this just made things official.

But the problems could surface one or two years down the road. Not to sound dramatic, but Isiah is like a cancer. At first, someone might not notice it, but if you let it fester it will soon overwhelm and destroy the host. The Knicks are the host. The behind the scenes drama and conflict could turn out to be a huge distraction. There should be no doubt that Thomas will connive and backstab his way to more power and influence with Dolan. Walsh will retire soon, and if anyone thinks Isiah won’t try to slide back into that old position, they’re nuts.

It might happen even sooner than that. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario at the trade deadline, or next year in free agency, when Isiah puts an idea in Dolan’s head to trade or sign someone. Dolan will talk to Walsh who will disagree, and then the owner will have to choose between Thomas and Walsh. Everyone should fear who the Knicks owner will side with in that scenario (though I know everyone wants the Knicks to trade two unprotected number one picks for a guy like Eddy Curry again).

Thomas will try to undermine both Walsh and D’Antoni at every turn, trying to convince ownership that they have not fixed the franchise. That led me to my third and most important conclusion: The Knicks MUST succeed this year. If D’Antoni fails to lead this team to the playoffs, it will simply open the door and lend more credence to what Thomas is whispering in Dolan’s ear.

The only way Walsh and D’Antoni win out over Thomas and his schemes is if the team wins on the court. That will be the ONLY thing that might convince Dolan that perhaps Isiah is not the man to run the Knicks again. If the Knicks fail to make the playoffs this year, there is no longer any doubt in my mind that both Walsh and D’Antoni will be fired, with Isiah being handed the keys to the franchise once again.

The pressure is on. Usually gaining a 7th or 8th seed is no big deal, but now it is. The future of the franchise is at stake. Literally, it’s playoffs or bust for the Knicks and all their fans. 2010-2011 will be the most important season for the Knicks franchise since Patrick Ewing left. It’s no longer about the cap or saving money. It’s about winning basketball games. Walsh and D’Antoni better do it for their own sakes, if not for the hopes and dreams of all Knicks fans. It all starts in training camp in just over a month.

Schmeelk Snippets

- I managed to stay on hiatus for a month with no real news, but I had to put fingers to keyboard about this. I find it amazing how an organization can disillusion so many fans just a month after giving them so much hope. The Knicks just can’t sustain good karma or good feelings for very long. The way can’t get out of their own way is startling, and borderline unbelievable.

- The Roger Mason signing is a good one. He adds depth to the SG position, one of two spots the Knicks could still use another body. If Azubuike can’t stay healthy he might get some serious run this year. Otherwise, he’ll be a good shooter off the bench.

- I’m convinced right now that the Knicks are the seventh best team in the Eastern Conference, and barring any serious injuries, they should be in the playoffs. My X-factor right now is Gallinari, and how much he improved from year two to year three. Can he get up to the 18-20 points a game range? He has the talent, and hopefully he has been working hard in Italy over the summer to take advantage of it.

- It’s nice to see the Knicks back playing Christmas Day! It’s a tradition that died after the Jordan-Ewing 90’s rivalry faded away. It just shows the Knicks are somewhat relevant again. It’s a shame I’ll be flying to beautiful Appleton, Wisconsin while the game is being played to cover Giants-Packers. There’s no better place to be on Christmas, right? When the full schedule is released Tuesday night, I’ll send out some quick comments.

Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/Schmeelk.

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