Zeke -- nuff said
"Can you believe how much I'm paying your teammates not to play?"

With all the poor play and questionable officiating in the playoffs, it's easy to forget about the bawful nature of the rest of the NBA right now. However, I need a break from the Celtics doing their best to rip out my heart and drive over it with a truck that has snow chains on its tires. So why not take a look back at one of the greatest sources of bawful comedy in recent memory?

It goes without saying that Isiah Thomas was an absolute joke during his time as president of the New York Knicks. He spent money and got nothing in return to show for it. He presided over the worst possession in basketball history. He was involved in a ridiculous sexual harrassment lawsuit. He had "an accidental overdose of a prescription sleeping pill." The list goes on and on.

However, do you truly understand just how spectacularly bawful his leadership was? This story is required reading for anyone who would ever go to this website. (h/t Jonah Keri for the link). The man wasted so much money, I'm willing to believe he was trying to recreate the movie Brewster's Millions. Let's break it down:

Isiah Thomas' fiscal irresponsibility became so extreme during his time as Knicks president from 2003-08 that he paid $120 million for a total of 82 games played. [The seven players responsible for that sum] averaged 10.6 points per game over the combined 82-game span.
Well, when you put it in those terms, it almost seems like an investment (even if a horrible Enron-ish one). His players actually scored some points! However...
Isiah Thomas effectively lit $50.6 million on fire by paying Jerome Williams, Maurice Taylor, Dan Dickau and Stephon Marbury for seasons in which they did not play for the Knicks.
Devastating. (And that list doesn't even include Jerome freaking James!)

Perhaps the worst part of the entire situation lies in the fact that Zeke did not actually initiate any of these contracts. No, some other sucker general manager in the Association decided it was a good idea to, for example, give Jerome Williams a salary cap crippling seven year, $41 million contract. (And you wonder how we got into financial crisis. The subprime mortage stuff is all just a front! NBA front offices did it!!) However, Thomas was more than willing to graciously give the Bulls a mulligan and instead saddle his own team with this unfathomable debt simply to get one Jamal Crawford. Yes, they eventually waived Williams, but the Knicks were still on the hook for $21 million over three years (Hey, it's only half of the entire contract! A bargain!)

And I haven't even brought up Eddy Curry, or drafting Renaldo Balkman one spot ahead of Rajon Rondo, or trading away countless other draft picks...

(Speaking of Balkman-over-Rondo, here's a fantastic line from Pat Forde's article I linked to in yesterday's BAD post:
By that point, Ainge wasn't capable of exhaling. He had arranged for his old team, the Phoenix Suns, to draft Rondo if Rondo was still there when the Suns were to pick at No. 21. He and the Celtics were sure that the Knicks' boss, Isiah Thomas, would ruin everything and draft Rondo at No. 20. But Thomas, himself a point guard, elected to go with Renaldo Balkman at No. 20.
This should surprise none of you.)

Are we cherry-picking some of the worst things possible and ignoring any good things Zeke did during his tenure? (Not that this is a hard thing to do... Zing!) Sure. But facts are facts, regardless of the circumstances. Isiah Thomas, we miss you and your reign of terror and failure at the New York Knicks, but at least your legacy will live on forever. Or at least until Donnie Walsh gets done cleaning up your mess and getting rid of the last of your horrific contracts.

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26 Comments:
Anonymous Sorbo said...
For the game 3 pictures gallary (sorry, couldn't find the image link):

http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-lakers-celtics-20100609,0,5053127.story

Anonymous Sorbo said...
Also, here's another Kobe hate/not-clutch article from Slate: http://www.slate.com/id/2255932/

Love when non-basketball people try to take on basketball articles. My favorite is the last paragraph:

Berri's numbers agree with Winston's: The King (LBJ) is a better closer than Black Mamba. James' Wins Produced per 48 minutes number skyrocketed from .441 to .893 in the clutch (first in the NBA) during the 2009-10 regular season, from .426 to .944 in the clutch (first in the NBA) during the 2008-09 regular season, and from .327 to .550 in the clutch (second in the NBA) during the 2007-08 regular season. (Bryant's WP48 Clutch numbers in those years are anemic by comparison: .282, .429, and .300.)

Although, The King also lost in the second round with zero clutch performances this year and one last year. You know...when it mattered.

Blogger 49er16 said...
I actually had to look up Jerome Williams because I forgot who he was.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
More organizational news: Woj is reporting Avery Johnson is signing a 3-yr deal to coach the Nets. And I've just bought tickets to every GSW-NJN game next year.

Blogger kingofkansascity said...
The replay rule on those out of bounds with 2 minutes left is problematic.

On one hand, the officials clearly didn't want to call a foul on Rondo(and send Odom to the line). On the other hand though, if the play gets reviewed, it's clear the ball went off Odom.

The lesson for players is that, under the current rules, do everything short of assault with a deadly weapon in the last two minutes, and if they don't call the foul, ask for the replay.

The lesson for officials is that if contact caused the ball to go out, you almost have to call the foul.

I don't like where either of those options takes us.

Blogger Dan B. said...
I actually had to look up Jerome Williams because I forgot who he was.

Exactly.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Wouldn't it be more like Isiah was trying to recreate the movie Blank Check?

Blogger Dan B. said...
AnacondaHL -- Please. I've tried to block that abortion of cinema out of my mind. (Then again, it had the guy who played Morton in Robocop in it, so at least it had one redeeming quality)

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Just like how Knicks fans are trying to block the failed abortion of the Isiah Era from their minds!

Hey...I kinda liked Blank Check...I mean I didn't have cable when I was a kid, so I watched The WB a lot...

Blogger Dan B. said...
I mean I didn't have cable when I was a kid, so I watched The WB a lot...

My condolances.

Anonymous Sorbo said...
http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2010/news/story?id=5268744

An espn article where Rivers is complaining about calls:
"Rivers said he had sent a tape to the league office documenting several instances in which the Lakers were not called for moving screen violations, a type of offensive foul. By his count, the Celtics were called for one such violation and the Lakers none."

That one: Garnett throwing Gasol down. Why would he complain about this? Half of the Celtics offense is moving picks.

Anonymous dratsab said...
did you watch unhappily ever after? i swear the younger bother had something for this hot redhead sister...

Anonymous Heretic said...
Ah blank check, where a million bucks could buy you a palace and all the whores you want. Nowadays it'll barely get you a townhouse in orange county. Something about that makes my soul feel likes it being slowly drowned in a pool of urine.

Anonymous Sorbo said...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh2fn01cngg

Youtube took down the original Zebo possession, but I found an appropriate substiute. I imagine someone at this site made it.

What's amazing about the worst possessoin in NBA history is that the defender tries to block it. Really? He thought Zebo needed a hand in the face for that shot? Really?

Just for comparison, could anyone, in fact, come up with a good thing Zeke did with the Knicks?

Anonymous Kelly Tripucka said...
Was there ever any indication that it would be a good idea to give Isiah Thomas such a powerful position?

Blogger Dylan Murphy said...
In Isiah's defense, he was a good drafter. But that's about the only defense that exists. And is anyone else disappointed that Prokhorov didn't go for a splashier hire than Avery Johnson. Maybe he voice was too mesmerizing.

Anonymous UpA said...
"Just for comparison, could anyone, in fact, come up with a good thing Zeke did with the Knicks?"

Comparing Zeke to Kiki Vandeweghe, he never got the knickerbockers so close to an epic worst season ever...

Comparing Zeke with Dumars... well, never got Iverson, never sold a solid player as Billups for Iverson (hey! the answer is all over the place) but, yet again, Zeke never won a ring...

Anonymous Sorbo said...
I know this site is not footbawful, but have you seen the interview tapes from the Rotheless "doublecheese" burgher case. Yikes. He out raped Kobe and during the Finals no less.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
What pisses me off the most is that while Isiah was making it rain in New York he didn't toss a little hush money my way. I totally could have been bought.

Anonymous Kelly Tripucka said...

Anonymous MODI said...
Isiah as a horrible GM is the biggest myth in sports. The truth is -- and please read the previous link to fully understand this -- is that he inherited the worst roster in the history of basketball. 99 in 100 GMs would have been an utter failure in that situation. How bad was the roster? With all his bad trades, he never actually lost one single great player! That is inexplicable. Joakim Noah is the very best player he lost via a trade, and he still drafted Wilson Chandler in the swap (everyone forgets this)

Isiah had only one option to rebuild -- taking on expensive expiring contracts in exchange for roster upgrades. THERE WAS NO OTHER OPTION. And if you don't understand this, then you don't understand the Knicks roster in 2003. To any other team this type of spending is ludicrous, but James Dolan is playing with monopoly money. I know that this is hard for folks to understand that 120 million is petty cash for some, but that is the truth -- as ethically distasteful as it may seem.

As for the salary cap myth, 2010 is a once in a lifetime exception, and only one max player (Shaq in 96) ever was signed via free agency. (note: nash was only obtained because Cuban passed). Besides the lucky Nash signing, virtually every team who played the salary cap strategy this decade came up empty or got severely burned (see Chicago and Ben Wallace; Orlando and Grant Hill). Great players almost always get traded so they can get value then be lost for nothing(see Finals: KG, Ray allen, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest)

Finally, Isiah is one of the best drafters in NBA history. Stoudemire over popular Ed Obannon, Marcus Camby, Tracy McGrady in one of history worst classes, Trevor Ariza at #40, David Lee at #30. Rarely picks a bust (standard for all GMs). A (unbiased) computer program that factored in draft placement ranked Isiah the #2 drafter in the NBA over the last 25 years. (BTW, Rod Thorn was dead last)

As for the Balkman over Rondo pick, check out the 10 picks before Rondo sometime. Also, and try to remember that virtually every single expert at the time was lambasting Isiah -- for not picking MARCUS WILLIAMS. Ainge deserves great credit for that pick, but if Isiah was wrong for it, so was everyone else.

There have been many GMs far worse than Isiah over the last decade. and Larry bird is at the very top of that list considering the talent he walked into. But Bird is virtually untouchable when it comes to MSM.

Bird had the "still young trio of Jermaine O’Neal, Ron Artest, and Al Harrington"? There's not a certifiably sane individual in that trio (BTW, Artest and Harrington requested trades).

Stoudamire, Camby, and McGrady were picked for Toronto, so that's irrelevant. Ariza has had his best years elsewhere, so that's actually a mark against Isiah. David Lee? He's no game-changer, and defensively he might as well be a turnstile in the ticket line at MSG.

What about the ROI on the Curry deal? Does a "great" drafter fart away lottery picks on an easily foreseen disaster?

Please to be looking at the team Petrie came to in Sac, and what he did with it. The Knicks are no better after Isiah than before, even though he had "monopoly money" to spend, and there's no more dire a condemnation needed in sports.

Anonymous MODI said...
Oneal, Artest, and Harrington ALL had high value at the time. In fact, they were able to get Peja for Ron-Ron, but Peja then walked, so Artest was basically lost for nothing. Harrington and Stephen Jackson were turned into Dun-Murphy. Tons of GMs have gotten much more for this kind of talent.

The statement was that Isiah is a great drafter, and that has been proven. And check out the Knicks draft picks the previous 15 years before Isiah arrived. You will be astonished.

Petrie? He did an excellent job no doubt, but let's be real. The lynchpin of that team was Chris Webber who was only obtainable because Petrie had a 6-time all-star/'98 Olympic team member Mitch Richmond to swap for him. How was Isiah going to land Webber any player of that magnitude? With Clarence Weatherspoon?

Comb through any NBA history and you will find no GM whoever turned around a roster similar to the one Isiah inherited. The lone exception is the luck of receiving that #1 pick during that special year (see Lew Alcindor in '69)

Are you going to answer the questions I posed, or just go off on your own tangent?

Maybe they had trade value, maybe not, but the fact is, Harrington, The Drain and Ron-Ron did little winning with the Pacers, and almost none after (Ron-Ron lucking into the Lakers not withstanding).
How much value did these dudes have after the Brawl, anyway?

"Tons of GMs have gotten much more for this kind of talent"? That's sketchy even for a blog comment. Got any facts?

Four of the 5 "great" draft picks you listed were for his time at Toronto. As I said, irrelevant to his time at the Knicks (and the compleat Isiah, how about the CBA years?). Please to be pointing out the "great" picks he made for NY (Mardy Collins? Dijon Thompson?). You also ignored the Curry question.

Petrie drafted Jason Williams, signed Vlade, traded for Webber (a straight-up swap for the rapidly aging Richmond), hired Rick Adelman, and, oh yeah, drafted Peja, who was worth a Ron-Ron, back when he was a "high value" player.
Later, he traded for Doug Christie and Mike Bibby, signed FA Bobby Jackson, and just last year, drafted the ROY Tyreke Evans, all while saddled with working in small-market, cowtown Sacramento. Petrie wipes his ass with Isiah.

Anonymous MODI said...
I didn’t realize that I had to precisely answer every question you posed. But if that is how you roll, then fine.

“What about the ROI on the Curry deal? Does a "great" drafter fart away lottery picks on an easily foreseen disaster?”

I, and many other Knick fans agreed with this one at the time. Isiah gambled on a center who was incredibly talented offensively for a 1st round pick and a SWAP (everyone seems to forget that part which resulted in Wilson Chandler). Centers are worth gambles because if it works out the payoff can be huge. That’s why you gamble. With Larry Brown coming on board, Knick fans expected to go to the playoffs, but Brown turned in one of the worst coaching jobs in NBA history with a record 42 starting line-ups. I saw every game, and I never saw anything like it in my life. Brown literally lost his mind. The next year, the Knicks were actually playing quite well for Isiah and looked like they were heading to the playoffs, but David Lee, Crawford, and QRich (when still good) all went down with injuries during the same week. In retrospect, it wasn’t a good trade, but not nearly as bad as folks make it seem. At the end of the day it was Curry-Wilson Chandler for Ty Thomas-Joakim Noah. I like Noah more than Chandler, but it’s not like this would fundamentally change the Knicks.

“How much value did these dudes have after the Brawl, anyway?”

Only Artest lost value after the brawl because of his history. I have no reason to believe anyone else although an argument can be made for Stephen Jackson. Artest was still valuable enough to land Peja when half the league was trying to get him. But Indiana never held on to Peja, which nullified the trade. And while that ironically turned out to be a good thing, why trade for him if you wouldn’t resign him?. At the very minimum, Artest was a future 1st round pick. Walsh-Bird botched it, plain and simple.

"Tons of GMs have gotten much more for this kind of talent"? That's sketchy even for a blog comment. Got any facts?”

I think that Indiana could have made the rebuilding call and gotten many draft picks. Last year Minnesota got the 5th pick for Randy Foye and Mike Miller. Presti made the rebuilding call and was able to get a #5 pick for a 32 year old Ray Allen. Portland got the 6th pick (Brandon Roy) for freakin’ Sebatian Telfair.

So let’s start with Artest. A slower Artest who was no longer the same defensive force still fetched a 1st rounder by Sacramento from Houston. Oneal? They did OK under the circumstances (TJ Ford and 1st rounder), but probably held onto Oneal too long. But by far the worst trade was Harrington-Jackson for the Dun-Murphy contracts that tied any flexibility to rebuild until 2011. Now I like Murphy’s rebounding and Dunleavy would have been much better had he stayed healthy, but I honestly don’t know of another GM who makes this trade. Golden State fans were jumping for joy on this one to lose those contracts. The trade signified Bird-Walsh's belief that Indiana could still contend in the playoffs at a high level instead of getting young talent or draft picks in return. Many pundits at the time were hyping the potential of Ike Diogu. That didn’t turn out so well.

And finally, Bird also botched the Jamal Tinsley situation very badly.

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