Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Tale of Two Organizations
If you want to see side by side examples of a first-class sports organization and one that still doesn’t get it, look no further than the actions this past week of the Giants and the Knicks.
First-class organization that they are, the Giants acted swiftly to rid themselves of a headache and a potential distraction on their road back to the Super Bowl by removing Plaxico Burress from their midst and taking a stand on behalf of civilized behavior (We’ll leave alone for the moment whether the team acted properly the night/morning of the incident. I don’t buy Mayor Bloomberg’s argument that Giants executives not on the scene should have reported the incident to police. That’s for the hospital Burress was told to go to, and for Burress himself or Antonio Pierce).
Even before the shooting, Burress had become a sideshow whose on-field brilliance was sporadic and whose disregard for team rules and me-first approach don’t fit in with the team-first attitude Tom Coughlin and his staff have worked so hard to develop.
The Giants’ decisive action made a clear, strong statement that they don’t condone Burress’ actions, a position more important than the effect Burress might have on the team’s won-lost record. They found the high ground, rushed there and staked out their position. Yes, they’ll try to recoup Burress’ signing bonus and try to negate the rest of his contract, but those actions will come after they excised him from the roster.
Would that the allegedly new-era Knicks take the same road in their dealings with Stephon Marbury. The longer Donnie Walsh and Jim Dolan allow the Marbury situation to fester, the more the once-unthinkable happens: they generate sympathy for a player whom they hung out to dry, night after night. And for what end? To save a couple of million bucks? When did Madison Square Garden start reading the economic news on the business pages?
It’s one thing to say they don’t see Marbury fitting into their plans. It’s another to bounce him around from having him show up for practice one day, suit up to sit on the bench during a game, make him sit on the bench in street clothes for others, require him to attend practices, offer to make him a starter for the rest of the season, banish him from practices. What’s next? Offer him out to entertain at kid birthday parties?
I don’t believe the contention that Marbury refused to play. If that were the case, the solution would be to dress him for a game, tell him he was going in and see if he refuses. Short of that, I lean toward his side: that he expressed his preference not to play but never refused.
I’m no fan of Marbury’s. I’m one of those who take note of the fact that every team Marbury has played on got better after he left. But he does deserve being allowed to maintain his dignity as he and the Knicks part ways.
If you believe reports about buyout discussions between Marbury and the Knicks, they’re only a couple of million dollars apart: chump change for an organization still paying Isiah Thomas, Alan Houston and, who knows, Frederic Weis? But chumps that they are, Walsh and Dolan are holding out, which only reminds us that despite a change at the top, the organization still hasn’t changed.
They should take a lesson from the Giants. Do what has to be done, quickly and decisively. Fully sever the ties with Stephon Marbury.
Only then, can the Knicks’ new era truly begin.

A.J. Carter, co-host

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