It’s never easy to tell reality with Isiah Thomas.
With him, the truth is messy and convoluted. You want to make it simple — “he was a terrible GM” — but reality is more complex (he made some very good draft picks and showed an eye for spotting talent out of college).
So it is with the recruitment of Carmelo Anthony to New York.
Knicks owner James Dolan stood on the podium and specifically denied that Thomas had consulted or influenced efforts to get Anthony to New York. Nobody around the Knicks believed that.
Thomas, in a fascinating and wide-ranging interview by Bill Reiter of Fox Sports, did not deny he was involved in the Knicks getting ‘Melo.
“I do have a lot of friends,” he says carefully. “And I am asked to advise in a lot of different scenarios. Players, coaches, and … ” A very long pause. “I won’t comment on the Knicks situation, but I do like helping the Knicks, and I do want them to do well.”
Right now, with the Knicks struggling to fit Anthony in and the team losing, plenty of Knicks fans would say this trade has all the markings of a Thomas move. But we do not know how it will turn out in a year or two.
Thomas in this interview vacillates between confident and needy. He desperately wants back in the NBA, he has confidence his friends will back him. To the point he pushed Reiter to call Charles Barkley right then and there, in front of him (without Barkley knowing Thomas was there).
Barkley, as always, was honest.
“He’s coaching right now,” Barkley says. “He got fired, and when you get fired you don’t just go get another job. He’s a great guy and I like him, but he made some bad decisions with the Knicks, like I think everyone knows. He has a job now, so that should be his No. 1 priority. Gotta do that.”
I hang up. I tell Isiah what Barkley said. His face falls.
Thomas all but admitted he struggles as a coach but sees himself as a good talent evaluator. His drafts were solid to very good, but his free agent choices in New York cut him and the franchise off at the knees. Thomas said his problem was more PR than actions.
Thomas was insanely confident of his skills as a player, comparing himself to Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
“I have no problem saying this at all,” he says. “They’re all 6-(feet)-9 and Jordan was 6-6 and a half. If they were all 6-1, it wouldn’t even be a question. They wouldn’t even f—ing rate. If they were all my size, s—, they wouldn’t even be talked about.
“I beat the s— out of them when they were that big. If we were all the same size, f—.” He stops to laugh good-naturedly. “Make them 6-1 and let’s go on the court.”
Go read the entire article. Like Thomas himself it is conflicting and both impressive and sad all at once.