- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2006

If you have a bad deal, Isiah Thomas can help.

If you have credit-card debts, outstanding loans, alimony, child support or Steve Francis, Thomas can work with you. The New York Knicks president can work with almost anyone except Anucha Browne Saunders and her sexual harassment suit.

Thomas acquired Francis and his onerous contract from the Orlando Magic last week, boosting the team’s payroll to more than $123 million and pulling off a rare first: highest payroll and fewest wins (15). That’s about $8.2 million a win.

At least the Charlotte Bobcats have paid only $2.2 million for each of their 15 wins.

Francis is making $13.7 million for refusing to enter games, and his contract runs through the 2008-09 season. He often is called Stevie Franchise, mostly because he’s played for all of them.

With the Francis deal, Thomas has devolved into self-parody. This trade doesn’t deserve analysis. It deserves a laugh track.

Francis and his new backcourt mate, Stephon Marbury ($16 million this season, $60 million for three more), are both small, quick guards. This prompted at least one comparison to Thomas and Joe Dumars of the championship Detroit Pistons.

That’s funny — but only in a sad way — because it reminds everyone of Dumars, who is now a talented NBA executive.

Knicks coach Larry Brown ($10 million this season, $40 million for four more) compared Francis and Marbury to the exalted Knicks backcourt of Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe.

Brown used to be a great coach. Now he is an overpaid comedian. Is this thing on?

But seriously, folks, Thomas is running the Knicks the same way he ran the CBA — into the ground.

He’s paying Allan Houston $19 million this season and $20 million next season, and he’s retired.

He’s paying Eddy Curry $7 million, and he has a heart problem.

If there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for the Knicks, it’s an oncoming train or the 2009-10 season — whichever comes first.

As for the Magic, they make franchise players disappear.

If you’re scoring at home, Orlando has turned Shaquille O’Neal, Anfernee Hardaway and Tracy McGrady into Carlos Arroyo, Darko Milicic, Pat Garrity, Trevor Ariza and a 34-year-old Hardaway, who they immediately released.

But they got rid of that hockey general manager, the one who thought Doug and Jackie Christie were better than Cuttino Mobley.

New Orlando general managers Dave Twardzik and Otis Smith are starting over.

That’s something Isiah Thomas is incapable of doing.

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