2006-10-06 / Sports

Isiah, Knicks Look To Erase Last Year's Chaos

By John Buro

GREENBURGH, NY -There were handshakes and hugs, and for both the players and the press, a chance to become reacquainted. But, most of all, it was time to look forward. Because, in all honesty, no one chose to look back.

It is so easy not to remember. But, no one can ever forget. The record books will acknowledge just how very bad the New York Knicks' were last season. Their 59 losses tied for the most in franchise history, and only the 21-61 Portland Trail Blazers had the NBA's worse record.

Perhaps, they were expected to do better. After all, their payroll was in excess of $126 million. For 2006-07, New York is already on the books for $135-140 mil, far beyond the league-imposed $53,135,000 cap [the luxury tax, now at $65.42 million, presents a greater concern, as a dollar-for-dollar hit is imposed to any organization which exceeds this figure].

It should be noted that approximately $45 million of their payroll will be eaten by the contracts of Allan Houston, Maurice Taylor, Shandon Anderson, and Jerome Williams; Taylor, the last ex-Knick, trashed the team on his way out.

Off the court, the Knicks are equally troubled. There's the matter of Larry Brown's staggering $53.5 million arbitration hearing [which includes $12.5 million in damages], now in the hands of Commissioner David Stern. There's also a sexual harassment lawsuit against Isiah Thomas -the GM during Brown's brief tenure and now the team's Head Coach- which was filed in January by Anucha Browne Sanders, the Knicks' former Senior Vice President of marketing and business operations. Prior to filing suit, Browne Sanders had demanded $6.5 million to 'leave quietly.'

So, with more than 150 credentials issued, this particular Media Day proved to be as much about the team's legal woes as its on-court woes.

Stephon Marbury refused to answer any questions in detail regarding Brown, his former coach, whom he sparred with much of last season ["No comment; you guys know you're not getting any Larry Brown stuff out of me."] Eddy Curry, whose irregular heartbeat was once a major concern, pronounced himself physically fit. Steve Francis, another talented guard, hoped for more playing time. Channing Frye, a friend of the press, spoke about his exceptional rookie season and the total recovery of his sprained left knee ligament.

And, while no one could, or would, offer the mildest prediction, there was a sense of optimism in the air. Even Spike Lee, whose 1997 memoir 'Best Seat in the House' recounts his love affair with the Knicks, was "hopeful."

Thomas, too, was cordial, but didn't commit to a whole lot.

"The first thing that I need to do," he said, addressing the media toward the end of the day's session, "is instill confidence back into the players. I have to make them smile again, and make them like basketball again."

That would be just the first of many steps.

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