Mid afternoon on Wednesday, February 22nd, Isiah Thomas ruined my entire week. The damage he inflicted went on to ruin the remainder of the NBA season and lingers with me into the Knick-less playoffs. In fact, a reasonable prognosis is that Isiah ruined the next 3-4 years of my life as a fan of the New York Knicks. He needs to be stopped.
As one of the few remaining supporters of the Knicks, nay, the few remaining dolts who over the past 18 months worked overtime to spin Isiah’s moves and blunders into a positive outlook on the organization’s talent, potential and rebuilding, I am know officially laying down my hat with the conclusion of the regular season. Isiah’s last move of the 2005-2006 campaign was to swap Penny Hardaway’s bad knees, affable memories of Lil Penny and expiring contract along with youngster Trevor Ariza for the uber talented crybaby Steve Francis and his diaper bag. God, it’s just too much to think about. I’m retiring as an Isiah supporter, he’s going to have find his own fans now. I’m sorry Isiah but aside from your boss James Dolan (who looks remarkably like Tim Curry’s stunt double), there is now officially no one left in this city to enable you any further.
On the bright side of things though, I did learn a few things from the Knicks organization this year, particularly from Isiah’s general management skills.
Lesson Number 1: You get the worse end of 100% of the trades that you don’t make
Isiah Thomas is a man that just loves to trade. I believe that when he wakes up every morning, goes to the toilet and does his morning business, he slaps a sign that is hung above the bathroom door for inspiration. In the same way it psyches Notre Dame football players up as they storm the field of play, Isiah amps himself up to punish the phones all day long. Only instead of “Play Like a Champion”, Isiah’s sign reads “Don’t Sweat It, Make the Trade, How Bad Can It Be?” Maybe he even looks in the mirror above his dresser while tying his Windsor knot. “You know, I’m Isiah Thomas and I’m successful. People like me and gosh darn it, people want to trade with me.” He’s right, who wouldn’t want to trade with him? It’s like trading a gallon of milk to a Thai man for his flock of daughters. It’s a no-brainer. The milk in exchange for the girls. Done. (It would be 2% Milk, just for the record)
The one trade I’m glad Isiah was smart enough not to make - Jesus Christ himself for Steve from the D’Agostino’s deli counter? Even despite throwing in some breath mints, he just couldn’t find a way to make the salaries match so he did the right thing and he walked away.
Lesson Number 2: When the shit hits the fan, make it all about you
In the midst of the Knicks implosion, it seemed like every paper across the city was featuring an article about a Knicks player complaining about their playing time. Of course! If Trevor Ariza, the man with no jump shot and whose defense disappeared in his sophomore campaign, if he got more time, the wins would come a runnin’. This is a very valuable lesson. That’s why when I found out at my last job that we had just lost three of our biggest accounts and that massive amounts of layoffs were about to ensue, I marched myself right into my director’s office and demanded a raise and more responsibility. That type of a request shows you’re really looking at the bigger picture. It’s endearing to management.
Lesson Number 3: Whoever said the score mattered was a maroon
Let’s step into the mind of pint-sized rookie Nate Robinson for this one.
Seriously. Score? Who cares? I’m about to go dunk this ball, in a meaningless game where we’re down 21 in the 4th quarter with three minutes to go. Then I’m going to run by the opposing team’s bench, where all the starters are getting rest during garbage time and pose. You know why? I just won, the score means nothing. I’m the winner. I’m the dunker. They’re just the technical winner by definition. But definitions mean nothing… except… the meanings of words.
Lesson Number 4: There’s no such thing as job security, unless you’re in the Knicks’ front office
High School Guidance Counselors across the country should be instructing the students under their tutelage to shoot for the ultimate in job security, a front office job with the New York Knickerbockers. Aside from the fringe benefits like free hot dogs and employees throwing sexual harassment suits at each other, you get to trade all day for overpaid, underachievers, all while running a historical franchise into the ground. The best part is, there’s no need to worry about getting fired! On top of it, you don’t have to be as competent in what you do as some other jobs, a monkey throwing feces for example. I mean those monkeys really to have some good aim.
Lesson Number 5: Sometimes people don’t hear you, so keep repeating yourself even if the problems seem to get worse
By season’s end, Larry Brown more closely resembled Milton from Office Space, the disgruntled worker who mumbled to himself, than he did the Hall of Fame coach that was the purported savior of the franchise just a summer ago. I guess that makes Isiah, Bill Lumberg. “Ok Isiah, that’s my schtapler. Um, ok, I also told you I need a shot blocking center, a traditional point guard and my guys don’t play D. I was told before they would buy into the system. Um, ok, but… but… I’ll burn the building down.”
Lesson Number 6: Communication is bad
Just like marriages, effective sports teams work because of good communication. That’s overrated though. If you really want a challenge, try communicating to each through other people. Larry Brown did it with his entire team, usually through the newspapers. No one knew their roles. This was all achieved through bad communication. Then again, bad communication yields great makeup sex. I’m not sure if Stephon and Larry have gotten there yet but another year of fighting in the papers ought to do it. Then they can have peel-the-paint-off-the-walls makeup sex.
Lesson Number 7: Do not build a team of anything around a man named Stephon
I worked for a man named Stephon at a gas station when I was 17. It was the best job I ever held. Every night, I would read the papers, eat free Twix and drink free Gatroade. Then, Stephon had this brilliant idea and they installed surveillance cameras. Two weeks later, out of the blue, he fired me. However, he did let me walk out with a Newport coffee mug that had a race car suspended in the base as my severance. Otherwise, he was a terrible building block of an organization. Just terrible.
Lesson Number 8: If you have any fans, or friends for that matter, tell them to eat crow and die. They’re opinion doesn’t matter and you shouldn’t pretend it does
James Dolan lives and dies by this rule. What should I do when the entire city is calling for my GM’s head? Why, I’ll come out and tell them I think he’s doing a brilliant job! It’s a lot like politics actually. It’s how you get ahead and that’s why I like to insult each and every one of my family members to their face every chance I get, so I can live by the gospel of Dolan.
Lesson Number 9: When your product sucks, do the only respectable thing there is to do. Charge more!
Here’s how I envision this conversation went.
“Mr. Dolan, sir?”
“Oh, Pop Tarts!”
“The Knicks attendance is plummeting and concession sales are down significantly. What should we do?”
“Raise ticket prices.”
“But sir, won’t that alienate fans and insult them considering the product we’re putting out there?”
“Fuck them. Oh wow, these are frosted Pop Tarts, too. Rad.”
Lesson Number 10: You don’t truly know how to screw up an organization’s prospects until you’re handed the reigns for a third time
Whether you’re managing your child’s little league team for the first time or taking the reigns for your first General Manager post in a professional sport, don’t worry if you achieve an extraordinary success early on. It takes a few times before you truly learn how to destroy an organization and all the goodwill it has built up with the community. Just keep plugging away with the nine lessons learned above and you’ll eventually get it right on how to get it wrong. Look no further than Isiah Thomas’ career path for inspiration. Of his former organizations, they aren’t anywhere near the dismal failures the Knicks are and for a fraction of the salary. The Raptors are turning things around and the Pacers, despite his best efforts, are a perennial playoff contender. The third time however, has truly been the charm.
The 2006-2007 season is only 7 months away, I can’t wait to see what new lessons are in store!