Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
D’Antoni: Knicks Used Isiah When LeBron was ‘Slipping Away’
NEW YORK — Mike D’Antoni said the Knicks utilized Isiah Thomas to recruit LeBron James because James was “slipping away.”
“Everybody was on board,” D’Antoni said Tuesday after Team USA practice at John Jay College.
“It was like, ‘OK, let’s pull out all the stops. LeBron is slipping away. And can anybody get inside his circle?’ And so we just tried everybody. And everybody tried their contacts and nothing really worked. It was kind of one of about 10 things we tried.”
James ultimately spurned the Knicks to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat, but the Knicks formalized Thomas’s relationship by making him an official consultant last Friday.
The NBA is reviewing Thomas’ agreement to see if it violates league rules, which prevent team officials from having contact with players who aren’t yet eligible for the draft.
Both Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheimcame out publicly against the hiring on Tuesday because Thomas also serves as the head coach at Florida International.
Knicks owner James Dolan credited Thomas with helping to land Amar’e Stoudemire, who signed a five-year, $99 million deal with the Knicks. The Knicks then asked Stoudemire not to play for Team USA in the World Championships because of insurance concerns related to his surgically-repaired knee.
Asked if Thomas was influential in landing Stoudemire, D’Antoni cracked: “I’d say that and 99 million dollars [were] probably very influential.”
The Knicks on Tuesday also announced the signing of shooting guard Roger Mason, 29, to a one-year deal worth a reported $1.4 million.
“I think Roger can definitely help us,” said D’Antoni, who won’t travel to Turkey with Team USA because of a bad back. “We were real thin at the point guard. We didn’t have anybody. He can help there. He’s a shooter. He had a bad year last year and a little bit of dislocated finger that he got fixed. He’s primed and ready to go and hopefully he’ll be a nice addition.”
With the additions of Stoudemire, Mason, point guard Raymond Felton and the other pieces the Knicks picked up, the team will be expected to improve significantly on last year’s dismal 29-53 record.
If not, Thomas could ascend within the organization.
“I don’t think so,” D’Antoni said when asked if that was a possibility.
“It could happen; anything can happen. That means we didn’t do our job well and failed. We are not planning on doing that. It’s just that he can add something as a consultant, but Donnie is in complete control.”
Multiple reports indicated Walsh vehemently opposed Thomas’s hiring as a consultant, even going so far as to not sign the contract.
Still, D’Antoni, who took over as coach after Thomas was fired two years ago, said Thomas could help the Knicks.
“I’m sure that Isiah has a lot to offer. Donnie will call on if he needs it and be in consult,” D’Antoni said.
In the end, D’Antoni said he didn’t really care too strongly one way or the other about Thomas’s hiring.
“It’s really not my area,” he said. “It’s not changing what I do, so I am cool.”
(Photo courtesy NBA.com)
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.