Saying Marbury is sick, Thomas sits his point guard in a loss to the Bulls. (The Knicks are 5--10, the same record they had last year after 15 games.) It's the player's second benching in six days, and there are signs that Marbury, who had an ugly public feud with Larry Brown last year, is chafing under his new coach. "I was fine," Marbury says of his health. He answers, "Nope," when asked if he was O.K. with being benched, and he can't help getting a little snarky: "[Thomas] doesn't have to explain. He's the coach and the president."
Thomas takes exception to Bowen's in-your-face defensive tactics—and gets in the Spurs' guard's face to let him know. During a stoppage in play Thomas confronts Bowen and instructs his players to "break his f------foot." Later, a Knicks assistant restrains Thomas from going after Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. San Antonio's Tim Duncan calls Thomas's antics "very uncalled for."
New York fans
The Knicks win before a hostile crowd in Denver, bringing their record to 2--1 on the road and 0--2 at home. Thomas offers a theory on why the team does better away—and takes a swipe at the New York faithful: "At home you want the home fans giving the opposing team the same type of treatment that we get out on the road.... One day we will have a home court advantage."
Four months after the ESPN analyst and ex-Knick says he's befuddled by New York's taking small forward Renaldo Balkman in the June draft (the choice is a "shocker," he says), Thomas launches a counterattack. Calling him a "so-called former Knick," Thomas says Anthony "should never, ever be in a position to question [me] on anything about basketball because I do remember the kind of player he was." Anthony's response: Thomas is "not worth commenting on."
During a summer league game in Las Vegas, Thomas corners Karl, one of Larry Brown's best friends, and demands to know why the Nuggets' coach has criticized the Knicks' handling of Brown's dismissal. Later Thomas tries to play down reports that he erupted, saying, "I just made the point that he should talk about his own team and quit talking about ours." Karl, however, describes his conversation with Thomas as "heated."
The Knicks get crushed by Indiana 109--95 in their home opener. Instead of ripping his team's timid performance, Thomas lashes out at the Pacers and vows vengeance for their postgame celebration on the Garden court: "We'll have a long memory. And one day we'll be the team that's on top doing the kicking and the stepping.... We'll be pretty unforgiving when we get on top."
"He was an artist in a trade generally practiced by manual laborers".
—WILLIE PEP OBIT, PAGE 22
ILLUSTRATION BY JOHN CUNEO
GREG NELSON (MARBURY)
GREG NELSON (BOWEN)
JAMES DEVANEY/WIREIMAGE.COM (SPIKE LEE)
JOHNNY NUNEZ/WIREIMAGE.COM (ANTHONY)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (KARL)
NICK LAHAM/GETTY IMAGES (PACERS PLAYER)