EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 16: Head coach Isiah Thomas of the New York Knicks directs play during the game against the New Jersey Nets on January 16, 2008 at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Knicks won 111-105. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
The most shocking thing to come out of the whole LeBron James saga last week wasn't the way he trashed his public image and spat on Cleveland during his televised admission of self-doubt. No, it was the news that the Knicks sent Isiah Thomas to make an eleventh hour plea to James in Ohio.
There is absolutely nothing about the idea that makes sense. Thomas is the coach of Florida International University right now, not a key player with the Knicks, and it is rarely considered good business sense to remind prospective employees with options that your organization is so enamored with incompetence that Thomas is still associated with their dealings.
It wasn't Thomas's only role in wooing free agents, either. He was also in contact with Joe Johnson before Johnson took advantage of Atlanta's misguided opinion that he was worth $120 million and had enough to do with Amar'e Stoudemire to earn thanks from Donnie Walsh at the press conference announcing Stoudemire's signing.
That's a lot of activity for Thomas, especially with the Knicks employing Walsh and Mike D'Antoni to do the jobs Thomas did before he was finally relieved of duty after the end of the 2007-2008 season. It's just enough activity to make you wonder if the signals that Thomas could actually be in line for a return to power in the Dolan empire might actually have some validity to them. Never has there been a more terrifying thought.
We've long known that every criticism of Isiah served only to strengthen James Dolan's resolve to keep him in a position of power as long as possible. It's instructive to remember that it was the sexual harassment case, not his inept basketball management, that ultimately cost Isiah his job with the Knicks, something that must have served Thomas well when he went to Dolan and told him that he could close the deal when Walsh and D'Antoni couldn't get James to New York.
It's understandable that not getting James would upset Dolan. That was the main goal of the last two years and someone as tone deaf as Dolan couldn't possibly fathom that the entire free agent chase was a myth since James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were heading to Miami long before the thing even kicked off. That makes him an easy mark for Thomas, who could easily persuade his only supporter that the same thing will keep happening unless a man who speaks the same language as the players is put into a position of power instead of the guys currently in those jobs.
Who cares that the Knicks were only in this desperate situation because Thomas was so dreadful at his job in the first place? Who cares that the only good thing you can say about Thomas's personnel acumen is that he did well with picks late in the first round is a direct result of the fact that he gave away high picks that could have turned into so much more? Who cares that the team was an embarrassment on and off the court during his tenure?
You know who cares? Mikhail Prokhorov. We're still not sure what his the blueprint for success he touts on that billboard actually is, but surely getting your local rival to hire someone as truly incompetent as Thomas is a big part of it. If the Knicks bring Thomas back into the fold in a major way, you will see a groundswell of support crossing the river to join up with the Nets. It doesn't even matter which river because you want as much space between yourself and someone like Thomas as is physically possible.
Getting LeBron would have made the Nets major players in New York. Funny, then, that the Knicks missing out on him could wind up doing even more.