Knicks Play Bigger In Court Than on It
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
TARRYTOWN, N.Y., Oct. 1 -- The New York Knicks are one of the NBA's original franchises, but in recent years discussions about the team have rarely revolved around basketball. The team hasn't won a playoff game or had a winning season in more than six years and remains relevant mostly because of what happens off the court. Or more recently, in the courtroom.
That's where Knicks Coach Isiah Thomas was on Monday, leaving his players to answer questions at media day while he awaited the verdict in a sexual harassment trial involving former Knicks employee Anucha Browne Sanders. There has been no official verdict in the case, but the jury has reached a decision on eight of the nine counts in question and appears to be leaning against Thomas and Madison Square Garden. The trial, which is expected to reach a conclusion on Tuesday, will force Thomas to miss the first day of training camp in Charleston, S.C.
While players admitted that it will be unusual for Thomas not to be there, many expressed support for him and stressed that it won't be a problem. Stephon Marbury repeatedly summed up the situation with a four-word catch phrase: "It shall be well," he said.
Marbury garnered much of the attention as he spent most of his time answering questions about an offseason filled with questionable incidents that could easily be described as bizarre.
Marbury also had an infamous 10-minute interview for a local television show in New York that became a YouTube sensation. It featured him rambling erratically, answering his cellphone and using what sounded like a vulgar term for his wife. Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas even weighed in on the clip through his blog on NBA.com, calling it "the best interview in history."
The day after the Knicks acquired Zach Randolph from Portland, Marbury was recorded marching down the streets and shouting in praise of Thomas. He later appeared to defend Michael Vick, saying "from what I hear, dogfighting is a sport." In a blog for the New York Post, Marbury also stated that when his contract expires in two years, he would like to play in Italy. He reiterated those thoughts Monday.
But those incidents pale in comparison to what happened during the sexual harassment trial, when Marbury, who is married with three children, admitted to having a sexual encounter with a former Knicks intern two years ago. "I have no comments to that," Marbury said. "Nobody can judge nobody. If I went into everybody's lives and dug up what I needed to dig up I'm almost positive I'll be able to find some skeletons in some people's closets. Nobody on this earth is perfect."
This offseason appeared to sully Marbury's reputation, which received a boost in the past year with his low-cost Starbury sneaker line and several shoe and clothing giveaways. He didn't sound bothered by the criticism. "I know what state of mind that I'm in. That's all that's important," said Marbury, who recently became a born-again Christian. "I'm very happy. I don't have to say nothing else. People that know me -- people that support me, that buy my shoes, people that know who I am -- they know."
Marbury later tried to change the line of questioning. "I know y'all want to know what's going on with me because that seems to supersede what we're really supposed to be talking about," he said. "We can talk about me all day long, but really, what we're really supposed to be talking about is basketball."
There were the occasional questions about how Randolph will mesh with center Eddy Curry and if the team can finally make the playoffs, but even Marbury's teammates know that having a strictly basketball discussion about the Knicks is a difficult proposition. "That's being in the number one media market in the world," guard Jamal Crawford said. "I would feel like something was wrong if we was just about basketball."
And until Thomas leaves the courtroom and returns to the basketball court, that cannot even begin. "It's something that was supposed to happen in order to go forward," Marbury said of the trial.
"This too shall pass. Once the season starts and we begin to play, I think the fans will adjust back into the environment that they're comfortable with. We're talking about a civil lawsuit and somebody trying to make money. When we start playing ball, hopefully, that's what people will concentrate on. Only thing we can control is how we go out and play."