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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A problem that starts at the top

A nasty brawl between two pro basketball teams, the Knicks and the Nuggets, got our attention the other night -- so much so that it led to the hijacking of a touchy-feely, we-are-the-world thread that we had tried to start on a completely different subject.

The players who duked it out, dangerously close to the audience, deserve the suspensions they've been given. The union will protest, and some mealy-mouthed arbitrator will likely reduce some of them, but the fisticuffs will cost the sluggers big bucks. Carmelo Anthony, an All-Star Nuggets player with some pretty bad judgment, threw a premeditated punch that drew the biggest suspension of them all -- 15 games. All as it should be.

But what's even more disturbing than the brawl itself is the story that emerged about the conduct of Knicks head coach Isiah Thomas just seconds before the fight erupted. Incensed that the Nuggets, who had the game well in hand, were still playing their starters, Thomas walked up to Anthony and issued a thinly veiled threat of physical violence if he dared play the rest of the game in earnest. Thomas's comment to Anthony was something like: "Hey, don't go to the basket right now. It wouldn't be a good idea. I'm just letting you know." Those who have lip-read the video that captured the statement quote Thomas as saying something like: "Don’t go in the paint again. It wouldn’t be nice."

Moments later, the Nuggets' J.R. Smith dared to disobey the mighty Isiah, actually pursuing a fast break, and Knicks thug Mardy Collins committed a dirty foul that started the whole ugly scene. And Anthony, who had just been threatened, retaliated in a manner that will cost him around a month's salary and greatly damage his short-term prospects as a commercial attraction.

Nothing excuses the conduct of the players who brawled. But when the leader of one of the teams involved is issuing threats of physical violence -- vengeance for playing the game hard and honestly -- he fosters the atmosphere in which these kinds of incidents occur. It's really inexcusable.

Isiah Thomas has had several years to show his character as a manager, and in that time he's proven himself to be quite a jerk. He made a real hash of the Knicks' roster as their general manager, and he continues to underachieve as their bench coach. A while back some sexual harassment charges surfaced -- the EEOC reported that a Thomas subordinate, who's suing him, was subjected to "a hostile work environment including, but not limited to, severe and pervasive verbal sexual harassment" -- and now this. It's obvious that this is Thomas's last year with the Knicks. He could do himself, the team, and its once-proud fans a big favor by resigning now.

Comments (9)

All the more reason to watch college basketball instead.
The pros are a bunch of overpaid head cases that can't lose gracefully, while earning millions to pay for acting lessons and charm school.

I seem to recall that during Thomas' heyday, when he and Magic's relationship was a highly publicized NBA 'event'(kiss on the cheek prior to each tip-off), Zeke (Thomas) suddenly cut off relations or bad-mouthed Magic following his HIV announcement. Does not appear to be the most loyal of individuals.

The labels "good people" and "bad people" are too easily assigned, but this fellow surely doesn't get the former.

Absolutely agree with Charlie. This so called prof stuff is a bunch of crap, get rid of these animals.

I could put up with a lot of junk from the pros if they could play basketball. But they can't.

Basically, they play exhibition dunk ball.

Thomas is quite possibly the worst administrator in the history of basketball as well. He took the CBA, which had been around for decades, and singlehandedly killed it in a matter of months.

Isiah seems to have lots of issues hiding behind that big smile of his. Goes to show you can't always judge a book by it's cover.

As I recall The Top begins with the fans who buy the tickets.

Do your part and put the NBA in your History book.

Oh stop, you got Zeke running the show in NYC and the old Bad Boy'z mentality is rampant. Sports are now nothing more than a microcosm of the riverview, hyatt and pennington projects.

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