Interesting story from the Daily News today, on the possibility of Knicks GM Isiah Thomas being replaced by Kiki Vangeweghe in the offseason.  One thing that should be noted:  the writer of this story, Frank Isola, has no connections or contacts inside the Knicks' organization.  None whatsoever.  He's not privy to the inner workings of the Garden, or the thoughts in management, from James Dolan on down.  But his theory is based not on inside sources, but on external observations.  For example:

"Madison Square Garden president Steve Mills attended Monday's screening with Kiki Vandeweghe, who is working with the Nets as a special assistant to team president Rod Thorn. That Mills asked Vandeweghe to be his guest wouldn't be noteworthy expect for the fact that Vandeweghe, who joined the Nets in December, signed only a six-month contract, which would make him a free agent around draft day this June, by which time the Knicks would want to have Thomas' replacement in place. Garden chairman James Dolan is expected to remove Thomas from power."

Most of the time I would wave off a sports writer for making a big deal out of nothing.  But that Steve Mills, Isiah Thomas' boss and the man responsible for hiring (and presumably firing) him, would attend a screening with a Nets employee and one of the most commonly mentioned names when discussing possible replacements for Isiah, seems pretty telling. 

As for the "...James Dolan is expected to remove Thomas from power" speculation: that, again, is not coming from any possible insider information Isola has, but from observation and deduction.  And I'm inclined to agree with him.  The signs are there that Thomas has limited power:

  • He had to prove himself last season, and did a good enough job to convince Dolan to sign him into a contract.  But what was he convincing Dolan of?  Progress.  And as we all know by now, the Knicks have not continued to progress, and in fact have taken a huge step back.  It stands to reason that if Isiah Thomas was on the hot seat going into last season, that he would be on the hot seat again this season.  And failed.
  • Isiah has made only one trade (or signing) of any significance over the past two seasons, a sure sign that his power was limited while "proving himself" to Dolan and senior management.  That trade was the dumping of Larry Brown's acquisition, Steve Francis, for Zach Randolph.  You can almost assume that acquisition could have been sold as "the final piece" to making the Knicks a legitimate playoff team.  Instead it set the franchise back a few seasons.  Otherwise, Isiah Thomas has not made any significant moves, even while trade rumors and possibilities whirled about (i.e. Vince Carter, Michael Redd, trading Eddy Curry to Miami).
  • The final, and most damning, piece of evidence that Isiah Thomas might be a lame duck is the fact that he has failed to inspire much of an effort from his team on a regular basis.  The fact that this Mills-Vandeweghe um, chat, took place less than two weeks after arguably the Knicks' worst loss of the year - perhaps worse than Boston Celtic massacre on TNT was this recent loss to the Philly 76ers by 40 points - is a bad sign for Isiah.   The Knicks had been showing effort in games over the previous month.  This loss, coupled with the bickering on display between Randolph and Nate Robinson in the previous game against Wizards, showed once again that Isiah has not been able to control or inspire his team. 
And that is why it can be reasoned that Isiah Thomas might be fired at the end of the season. 

Getting back to Kiki Vandeweghe, Isola had the following comment from "a league source" :

"The NBA is pushing Kiki for that job," said a league executive. "It sounds like it is a foregone conclusion that something is going to happen over there at the end of the season. Kiki makes a lot of sense."

Kiki does make a lot of sense:
  • He brings hope to a fading fan base.
  • He has a reputation, perhaps overblown by a local media that despises Isiah Thomas, as a GM who can "fix" a team.
  • He is a former Knick player and fan favorite.
  • He would be willing to work for James Dolan, and like Isiah Thomas and previous GM Scott Layden, adhere to his strict media policies and other team regulations.   Kiki is low profile, and would keep "internal matters" internal, meaning he would not air the team's trash to the media.  This is very important to Dolan.
  • He seems willing to hire, according to Isola, former Knick Allan Houston as an assistant GM.  That's would be a strong selling point to James Dolan, who is really good friends with Houston.
There is also discussion about whether Kiki would bring Patrick Ewing back to the organization, perhaps in an assistant GM position.  While I feel that would be a great move in terms of the fanbase, it seems less likely.  The "banning" of Ewing from the Knicks organization may have been an Isiah Thomas decision (he has a long feud with David Falk, Ewing's agent... he would never willingly employ a Falk player), it seems just as likely to be a James Dolan decision, too.  Ewing violated Dolan's media policy as a Knick player, and it was Dolan that allowed the Ewing trade to occur under Layden's watch.

Until James Dolan speaks to the media (he hasn't spoken to them in over 6 months) and willingly confirms that Isiah Thomas is going to be the coach/GM next season, the speculation will only continue to grow that Isiah Thomas will be fired this offseason.  And the heir apparent appears to be Kiki Vandeweghe.


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Spring Training 08






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