So it's not like he had much to work with, either.
Sure, Thomas has made mistakes as Knicks president, though he didn't trade Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson, Elton Brand, Ray Allen (twice), Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Jason Kidd or Kevin Garnett. He didn't let go in free agency Gilbert Arenas or pass on Carmelo Anthony in the draft. The point is running any professional sports franchise is not a science, and the best make plenty of mistakes. Take a look at Jerry West's last few years in Memphis when the only quality player there, Pau Gasol, was there before he arrived. Thomas inherited Don Chaney as coach and hired Lenny Wilkens and Larry Brown, two of the best in the history of the game and coaching Hall of Famers.
Yet, Thomas remains a major polarizing figure, especially in the wake of the civil sexual harassment case against he and Madison Square Garden.
So can the Knicks be saved? Or is this a version of the famous tabloid headline some 30 years ago when New York was suffering a financial crisis: Feds to New York: Drop Dead!
There's one word: Kobe.
Thomas is sort of a sports version of Hillary Clinton. People know they hate him; they just don't always know quite why.
Thomas actually had a plan when he took over the Knicks in December 2003, though it didn't work.
It made some sense, though the hindsight is he should have rebuilt, stripped down the franchise and gone with young players and draft picks.
It's much easier said than done, especially if a team is in a major market.
Big cities, which charge the most for tickets and have the least patient fans, rarely go through these kinds of rebuildings. And when they do, everyone there at the start loses their job. Chicago tried it after Michael Jordan left, and it was seven years until they began to regain some respectability. Los Angeles never has really tried, even after Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar left.
It's nice to watch these kid stories going on now in the Major League Baseball playoffs. But you notice they occur in Colorado and Arizona, smaller markets with less demanding media. New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles basically keep trying to tweak for instant gratification.
Thomas was another in a long line of executives who didn't have the stomach to rebuild.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
It made some sense, but the stars Thomas acquired were mostly flaming out: Stephon Marbury, Penny Hardaway, Tim Thomas, Jalen Rose, Steve Francis. Thomas took chances on some free agents, like Jerome James and Jared Jeffries, who seemed to make some sense at the time. But they didn't work out. He got some young prospects, like Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford, but they really are supporting players.
This summer Thomas took a shot at Zach Randolph, another high level player, though never an All-Star for a variety of behavioral reasons.
The fact is he hasn't been able to get a star.
Or yet develop one as Curry is only close and quality draft pick David Lee has yet to become a fulltime starter.
There is no fixing the Knicks as currently comprised because there isn't quite enough talent there. Thomas opted for players with offensive credentials, so he's stuck with that game. It doesn't appear they have quite enough firepower to make up for their lack of defensive prowess.
What this season — Thomas' last, many in New York are predicting — should be about for the Knicks is Kobe Bryant.
Things don't look like they are going to get much better for the Lakers unless they can make a major trade. That seems unlikely now as well. Bryant came to camp the good soldier, remaining positive and embracing coach Phil Jackson's request to be more of a playmaker.
But this Lakers team could miss the playoffs, and even if they make the playoffs, can they get past a loaded top four in the West? It seems unlikely.
Then Bryant will be one year away from leaving as a free agent.
The Knicks will hardly be far enough under the salary cap to make Bryant an offer, but while Bryant has talked about playing in Chicago, New York seems an ideal stage to complete his career. Bryant would be the kind of star New York demands, and he loves that kind of spotlight and attention.
And after another down season and with an unhappy Bryant, the Lakers could be ready to take the plunge. You figure Jackson would move on and they'd look for a fresh start.
So the Knicks season should be about trying to obtain the pieces that could go a long way toward making the Lakers whole after dealing Bryant.
A team never gets quite the value when trading a star of that magnitude, but you figure the Knicks could offer a good No. 1 pick as they may not make the playoffs. They probably keep Curry, which is not an issue as the Lakers have a future center in Andrew Bynum. The Knicks can offer Lee and Crawford, but they also need to go about finding a point guard since a deteriorating and often unstable Marbury wouldn't be of much interest. They have the money to throw into a deal and there also are opportunities to buy draft picks from other teams. They could take on a bad contract.
Sure, you need some pieces to keep so Bryant will have a chance. But it is easier in the East. Look at LeBron James in the Finals with THAT team. You can be sure that's part of what set off Bryant last spring.
But Bryant is so good, the best individual talent in the NBA, that he could make up for a lot of voids on the roster, especially competing in the East.
There's talk in New York about Curry, who now has shoulder problems, and Randolph playing together, both 20-point type scorers, of a high octane, offensive game. Though where it's going is questionable. This season should be all about trying to assemble the pieces to deal for and accommodate Bryant. And then Thomas can bring in Jackson, who played most of his career in New York and whose coaching mentor is Red Holzman, to have a two or three-year run with Bryant. It would be the biggest show on Broadway, which is really what New York is about.
Such a great city, as they say, you have to say it twice, New York, New York.
It's really the only true hope the Knicks have left with this roster.
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