As rumors go, it was far too good to be true, and then it happened: Isiah Thomas is coming to South Florida, to coach Florida International's basketball team. Oh, but this will make some good blog!
Thomas, of course, is as brainless as a coach/GM as he was brilliant as a player. Being Chicago-born like Thomas himself, I have always rooted for him, and he's rarely disappointed. My first memory of him dates to 1988, when despite a severely sprained ankle, he limped his way to a 25-point-third quarter in an NBA Finals game, nearly toppling Magic's Lakers. For the next three years, Thomas and his Bad Boys crew made perfect foils for the inevitable dynasty of my beloved Chicago Bulls, who finally vanquished them in 1991, after a brutal series whose resolution was made all the sweeter by Thomas leading his thuggish teammates off the court before the final buzzer, in a childish display of poor sportsmanship.
Hark! But this love letter grows long. I must put the rest of it after the jump.
After the Pistons folded, the New York Knicks became the team we Bulls fans loved to hate. When Michael Jordan was no longer there to humble them, fate delivered Thomas to the Knick's front office, fresh from post-retirement ventures that destroyed the CBA and demoralized the Indiana Pacers. In his first year in Gotham, Thomas graciously plucked ballhog Jamal Crawford from the Bulls roster. (To this day, every time Crawford launches a contested three-pointer early in the shot clock, an angel gets its wings.)
The year after that, Thomas was one of the few NBA GMs who could be convinced to trade for Eddy Curry, a colossal bust of a center who couldn't rebound, couldn't defend, and who in the final year of his contract was found to have a faulty ticker, a la the late Boston Celtic Reggie Lewis, that just might cause him to drop dead in the heat of battle. For this, Thomas was willing to part with a batch of players with expiring contracts and a couple first-round draft picks -- basically, a franchise-revival kit for my ailing Bulls.
And though Thomas left the Knicks one year ago, we Bulls fans are sure that his ghost engineered one final flourish of generosity: trading for the utterly unwanted Bulls guard Larry Hughes. Another inveterate ballhog, Hughes had to be handcuffed to the bench so he could merely collect his $13 million annual salary, rather than combine that grand larceny with the bad shots and turnovers that came with letting him in the game.
Last night, the Bulls clinched the seventh seed in the NBA Playoffs with a roster they half-owe to the blunders of Isiah.
And today I wake to the news of Thomas coming here to South Florida. I am ecstatic. My single, nit-picking regret: that he landed in Miami-Dade rather than Broward or Palm Beach. So it's with grudging professional courtesy that I hereby entrust this blog franchise to the custody of our friends in Miami, who have already posted a nifty compendium of Thomas' crimes against the home team, and who seem to be paying proper respect to the blog gods who delivered this gift to their doorstep. Long live Zeke!