Isiah Thomas is known to Knicks fans as the man who crumbled the franchise’s reputation to pieces He can be now be known, however, as part-time team consultant.
After weeks of rumors that Thomas had been influential during the Knicks’ summer recruitment of Amare Stoudemire and of course LeBron James, the team gave him an official title for what he may or may not have already been doing for the Knicks.
A "consultant’s" role can be extremely limited in many cases as it is, so it is difficult to imagine that Thomas will have any type of major impact as a "part-time" one. He will also retain his coaching position at Florida International University while taking on duties with the Knicks.
The legality of such an arrangement is currently under review by the NBA.
While the mere thought of Thomas returning to the Knicks (in any capacity) after he left the team in such an embarrassing position is hard to swallow, fans should not be too alarmed.
The hiring seems more like a personal favor than anything else. Thomas has remained close with team owner James Dolan, and has a special relationship with President Donnie Walsh dating back to their days working for the Pacers.
“I’ve always said that if there’s a G.M. position that should ever open, that I would be interested in going back to the N.B.A. as a G.M. for the right spot and the right opportunity,” Thomas said.
Thomas clearly wants to return to the NBA, but why Dolan and Walsh are appearing to throw Thomas a bone here is unclear.
By staying under the radar, Thomas may stand to repair his image if he receives praise from Dolan and Walsh for all the so-called “consulting” he has and/or will be doing.
Thomas was no doubt similarly looking to boost his creditability by accepting the coaching position at a smaller school like FIU last year.
The issue with Thomas keeping the job at FIU while consulting the Knicks is a clear conflict of interest. As a college coach, Thomas can “promise” his recruits that he will recommend the Knicks give them an extra look during future drafts.
While FIU has produced players like Raja Bell and Carlos Arroyo, the school is not exactly a hot bed for NBA talent. Nevertheless, the school’s somewhat unknown reputation would not seem to spook Walsh and company, as the team drafted Andy Rautins and Landry Fields, two little known talents, in this year’s draft.
While the one thing most would agree Thomas was productive at was drafting prospects, his opinion would be undeniably biased if and when steering the Knicks towards FIU talents.
Somehow, I doubt Walsh and Thomas would even discuss in depth drafting an FIU player, if only for the mere fact that Thomas would indeed be accused of bias.
The formula for success for Thomas clearly does not include such a controversy, so do not expect the Knicks to draft any FIU players in the near future.
“[FIU] will continue to be my main focus. In my spare time, when I do have time, just like I've always done, I'll consult and advise the Knicks whenever they ask for my help."
Just like he has always done? Such a statement suggests Thomas was in fact a part of the Knicks offseason, in addition to any past instances when Walsh felt as though he needed a second opinion.
After the dust clears and initial shock of Thomas’ less than triumphant return has gone away, fans need not worry about him any longer. After all, it’s safe to say that it was not Isiah Thomas that scared LeBron James away from New York, no matter how influential he was during the recruiting process.
Both sides suggest that Thomas will be asked to aid the potential recruitment of Carmelo Anthony next summer.
It does not appear as though his presence hurt the Knicks’ chances with free agents this summer.
If Thomas is actually able help reel in Anthony, (wishful thinking, of course) however, and at the same time, repair his imagine, more power to him.
Until then, such a hiring is merely a publicity stunt (whether it be good or bad), which fans should not concern themselves with, at least until Thomas becomes more involved.