NEW YORK — When Pacers’ president Larry Bird decided prior to training camp to support coach Jim O’Brien’s fervent desire to exile Jamaal Tinsley, I thought it was a lousy idea.
Why on earth would an opponent want to acquire a player owed $21 million over three seasons when the parent team finds him so repugnant?
Still, at least management eliminated any chance of Tinsley or O’Brien creating an embarrassing or prickly disturbance.
Every once in a while the Indianapolis media has attempted to update trade/buyout possibilities; that’s been it . . . no incidents or accusations, hints or allegations of insubordination. Boundaries were agreed upon and neither party has crossed them publicly.
You would think over the last four seasons Donnie Walsh would have learned something as Larry Bird’s boss. The Knicks’ president could not be handling the Stephon Marbury mess any clumsier had Isiah Thomas mapped its coordinates; maybe I’m on to something.
First, regardless of whether or not Walsh agreed with Mike D’Antoni’s “command” decision to ground the seamlessly compliant Marbury, and despite admission it caught him by complete surprise, he overtly supported the result.
In the process, D’Antoni took it upon himself to break his and Walsh’s word that Marbury would be given the opportunity to earn minutes as long as he adhered to whatever role the coach wanted him to play.
Next thing you know, again, without consulting his superior, D’Antoni deactivated Marbury for the following game in Philadelphia, permanently.
Out of nowhere, we were informed Stephon didn’t fit into the coach’s long-term design; only recently did I discover teammates had trashed the ink-stained wretch during individual summer sit-downs with their new coach.
Again, Walsh allowed the inequity to stand rather than covertly insist on protecting the franchise’s investment by showcasing Marbury; it theory, in worked well with Zach Randolph?
Someone please remind me to ask D’Antoni if he would have benched Marbury had Stephon’s salary been coming out of D’Antoni’s bank account?
I understand Walsh had no other choice but to back his handpicked $24 million hire over a $20.8 million leftover predicament.
At the same time, surely he recognized the unavoidable plethora of penalties Marbury’s mortification and bruised ego would provoke, yet did little to abort them.
As soon as D’Antoni sentenced Marbury to an isolation booth, effectively devaluing one of the Knicks’ precious few potential assets (expiring contract notwithstanding) lower than my 101K, Walsh should have separated Stephon from the team a la Tinsley.
From that point on, there was nothing to gain by having his sulking self loitering in its midst and only resentment to fester and fume on all sides of the controversy.
I know Walsh better than to remotely believe he kept Marbury out in the open in hopes he would breach his contract in some shape or form.
He probably felt, if D’Antoni was opposed to using Stephon, James Dolan’s handpicked $15 million hire needed to show Camp Cablevision stockholders, at the very least, Stephon was obliged to make an appearance each game and travel with the team.
Walsh also probably felt he could control the fragile situation to some degree with dreams of a buyout burning in Marbury’s brain. No promises were ever made regarding that end, nor was any timetable given regarding an outright release, a source stresses.
Still, Walsh should’ve known something bad was bound to happen sooner than later with Marbury and D’Antoni in such close proximity. The gulf of mistrust in a relationship that had quickly disintegrated in the 2003-04 season after D’Antoni replaced Frank Johnson as Suns coach had widened to unrestorable proportion.
Especially with New York’s media incessantly instigating and agitating and tailgating, as well as concocting or embellishing, or exhuming subversive stories that leave no teammate, assistant coach or equipment manager unturned.
If the main man who claims Walsh has complete autonomy, in fact, mandated Marbury must stay in play, so to speak, I apologize for much of the above.
In any event, all you need to know about the state of Stephon and the Knicks is Plaxico Burress had a better week.
Peter Vecsey covers the NBAfor the New York Post.
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