Whether it's Thomas or Brown as coach, Marbury still not sure how to play
November 28, 2006 7:46pm CST
GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) -- Stephon Marbury's numbers are down while he tries to figure out exactly what his new coach wants from him. Sound familiar? After 15 games, one thing has become clear about the New York Knicks: Isiah Thomas is determined to be just as tough on Marbury as Larry Brown was. "If there was any doubt in any player's mind, I'm sure that's clear and been cleared up, and I'll make sure I keep reinforcing what I want," Thomas said Monday. "And make no mistake about it, if I don't get exactly what I want, then there'll be consequences." For the struggling Marbury, that has meant extended time on the bench in the second half of recent games. He was yanked 65 seconds into the third quarter of last Monday's loss to Houston, then didn't even start the period and hardly played at all in the second half during the first shotless game of his NBA career Saturday night in a loss to Chicago. Marbury spent most of the half seated with a towel over his head, not even standing to cheer as the Knicks tried to fight back from a big deficit. He sounded disappointed after the game, and both he and Thomas were vague Monday about whether they discussed the matter privately since then. "He didn't really have to explain, I wasn't getting the job done the other night," Marbury said. "Now it's up to me to basically go on the basketball court and perform the way I'm capable of performing." The Knicks (5-10) open a three-game trip Tuesday night in Chicago and could be without both starting forwards. Channing Frye is out three to six weeks after spraining his left ankle Saturday, and fellow forward Quentin Richardson is day-to-day with a strained left hamstring. But just like so many times last season, the focus after practice was on Marbury and his relationship with his coach. Here's where things get tricky, though: Brown was no fan of Marbury's game even before coming to New York, having coached Marbury with the U.S. Olympic team in 2004. So a feud between the two seemed only a matter of time, and it didn't take them long to deliver. Thomas and Marbury have a good relationship. Thomas brought Marbury back to his hometown when he acquired him from Phoenix, and the two live nearby in Westchester County. But there's been a change since Thomas added the coaching duties to his role as team president. "My relationship as a coach is definitely a different relationship as president," Thomas said. "When you're coaching, I don't think there's a player that I've ever coached that hasn't at some point in time not liked me. But that's what coaching's all about." Marbury said he still believes in Thomas, and it's doubtful he would have said such a thing about Brown. He was surprised to learn the Knicks have the same record through 15 games as they did last season. But Marbury is playing worse under Thomas than he did under Brown. He is averaging only 10.1 points -- exactly half his career average entering the season -- and Thomas acknowledged Marbury hasn't quite figured out how to best perform in the offense. "Clearly his play would indicate that, because we know he's a better player than what he's shown," Thomas said. "The challenge for me as a coach is to find a way to make sure that he's involved and he's getting adequate touches and adequate shots that will make a difference. But it definitely has to come in the framework of what we do." Marbury said he would play more aggressively, and acknowledged he hadn't "been giving what I can give to the team." But Thomas only was interested in getting Marbury to play better, not blaming him for anything. "It's not about Stephon, it's about the Knicks," Thomas said. "It's never about just one individual. It's about everyone conforming, and we're playing for the Knicks and we're playing as a unit. It's not about the stat sheet, it's about the team. We win together and we lose together."