Last night I watched a preview copy of the NBA Dream Team documentary that airs on NBA TV Wednesday, highlighting the 20th anniversary of the original (and greatest) Dream Team and their run up to and through the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Watch it. It is fantastic stuff. Great stories, a reminder of how huge this was and how it changed international basketball, and just a fun trip down memory lane.
But one thing that stuck out — everyone confirmed the long-time rumor that Pistons guard Isiah Thomas was blackballed from the team. It started with the Bulls Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, although Jordan hints there were people up the USA Basketball ladder that were more than happy to do that, and NBA exec Russ Granik basically confirmed that.
Jordan and Pippen pulled no punches.
“That was one of the stipulations put to me (on the team) that Isiah wasn’t part of the team,’’ Jordan said.
“Isiah was the general (of the Bad Boy Pistons),’’ Pippen said. “He was the guy who would yap at his teammates and say ‘Kick them on their ass. Do whatever you have to do.’ No, I didn’t want him on the Dream Team.’’
Granik pointed to an incident at the end of the Bulls/Pistons playoff series that year where Thomas led his teammates off the court before the final buzzer even sounded. That kind of sportsmanship and image was not what the NBA wanted to project to the world.
So Thomas was out in 1992. He would not be part of this documentary, either.
Seriously, watch the entire documentary. You’ll learn a lot more than this. But this part may be one of the most gripping.
Knicks fans all over the globe just felt a cold chill go down their spine.
Isiah Thomas is out of a job after getting fired from Florida International University. So what is next? ESPNChicago.com asked him.
“I definitely want to be in basketball again whether it be coaching or as a general manager,” Thomas said by phone. “My gift is basketball. I would love working with the kids. If it’s the right college program, I would consider it. If it’s the right GM job or coaching job in the NBA, I would consider it. I love the game. I just want to be in the game.”
The Knicks have just kept Mike Woodson on as coach and Glen Grunwald as GM, so the traditional positions of power are gone. Well then, how about being a consultant? Or another key position to the owner? Thomas dodged the question.
“I have great friends in the organization,” said Thomas…. “The owner and I have a very good relationship. It’s an organization I will always root for and will always want them to do well because they’re all personal friends of mine.”
I’m not sure Thomas will ever again get a formal position with the Knicks — the fan base might revolt — but that’s different than saying he doesn’t have influence in the organization. However, if the goal is a paid position then back to college may be more likely.
“I’m like everyone else, I keep my options open,” Thomas said. “My mom always said don’t burn any bridges. I followed her advice. It would have to be the right option and right place.”
Knicks fans just involuntarily shuddered.
While rumors are floating around that Knicks owner James Dolan will still make a big money run at Phil Jackson, the best coach for that team may well be the guy doing the job right now.
And general manager Glen Grunwald — fresh off having the interim tag ripped off his title — likes the idea of brining back Mike Woodson, reports the New York Post out of Grunwald’s press conference.
“Woody has done a fantastic job,’’ Grunwald said at a press conference one day after he formally had the “interim’’ tag removed from his title. “I can’t give him enough credit for the job he’s done. Normally coaching changes don’t result in such a dramatic improvement in a team’s performance. I’ve known Woody a long time. We’ve had our separation, but to see how he’s grown as a coach and person after six years in Atlanta, that kind of experience he got there growing the team, and improved them over his tenure, and to see firsthand him working as a head coach here is very impressive.’’
That and other comments make it sound like he’s sold — but it’s not his call, it’s Dolan’s call. And who knows what Dolan is thinking? Would it really stun you if Dolan made a run at Jackson or John Calipari or even Gregg Popovich? Just because.
Keeping Woodson (and having Grunwald on staff) also keeps open ties within the Knicks to Isiah Thomas. The one specter that scares Knicks fans. Again from the New York Post.
Knicks interim coach Mike Woodson and Isiah Thomas met for dinner Tuesday night in Westchester County, hours after Glen Grunwald got promoted as the permanent executive VP/GM, according to sources.
Woodson, Thomas and Grunwald were teammates on the Indiana University basketball club for three seasons. Thomas, fired by Florida International earlier this month, is seeking employment and has lobbied hard with owner James Dolan to try to get back to the Knicks in some capacity.
Lets not go too overboard here — these are old college friends getting together for dinner. I’m sure they tried to talk basketball and their wives rolled their eyes and tried to change the topic.
But again, this is Dolan as captain of the ship. Would it shock you if he brought Thomas back in as a consultant? He’s already tried to do that once, and now that Thomas is not tied to the college game anymore… just sayin’.