- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2005

New York Knicks president Isiah Thomas finally admitted the painfully obvious truth last week.

He admitted what everyone in New York and around the NBA already knew. He admitted what his phony political smile could no longer hide.

The Knicks are a .500 team.

It’s hard to say what gave it away.

Maybe it was the team’s record, which hasn’t moved more than three games away from the .500 mark in either direction all season.

Or maybe it was this ill-defined roster that Thomas himself has assembled — one that is being paid a league-high $103 million — in his one year on the job.

Start with Thomas’ franchise player: Stephon Marbury. The Knicks have lost seven of eight games since Marbury proclaimed he was the league’s best point guard.

Marbury certainly is one of the most talented point guards in the league, maybe the most talented. He averages 20.5 points and 8.9 assists.

But Marbury, who is making $14.6million this season, is not smart. He is not savvy. And he never has won a playoff series.

The Brooklyn native is on his third team since whining his way out of a choice situation in Minnesota — hitting his prime with former best friend Kevin Garnett.

To complement his braggadocios point guard, Thomas has acquired some of the most overpaid, overrated and often-injured players in the league.

Thomas acquired Jamal Crawford last August for a number of expiring contracts. Crawford, one of the league’s best suck-ups, responded by saying he wanted to wear Thomas’ No. 11.

Crawford, who is making $6million this season, has been out since Dec.22 with a toe injury.

Tim Thomas ($12.9million) is another bundle of unfulfilled potential, averaging 10.6 points and 3.5 rebounds.

Crawford and Tim Thomas are athletes, not basketball players. Isiah fails to see difference.

Allan Houston ($17.5million) and Penny Hardaway ($14.6million) were once basketball players. Now they are old and often-injured. Houston, 33, and Hardaway, 33, have combined to play in 35 games this season.

“Let’s get everybody healthy and see,” Knicks coach Lenny Wilkens said after a Jan.10 practice. “Are we just .500, or what? Maybe we’re worse.”

The Knicks are lucky to be in the Eastern Conference, where a .500 team is a playoff team.

The Knicks are lucky to be in the Atlantic Division, where a .500 team is a division winner.

The Knicks are a .500 team, admittedly, if they are lucky.

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