The story is now seven years old, but trading for Carmelo Anthony was arguably the most significant move in the last 20 years for the Knicks.
And it seems Isiah Thomas was behind it.
In an excerpt from his book titled “The Soul of Basketball,” author Ian Thomsen tells the story of how he called Thomas, who at that time was coaching Florida International and was three years removed from being fired by the Knicks, to provide an update on the trade talks.
As Thomsen noted, the Knicks and Nets were in a bidding war for Anthony. The only thing holding the Knicks back from winning this war — and as sources familiar with the negotiations confirmed — was Donnie Walsh’s reluctance to include Timofey Mozgov in the deal.
That’s when Thomsen reached out to Thomas, who is good friends with owner James Dolan.
“Thomas and I had been sharing information for years, he had provided me with insight on the new generation of AAU players who were seizing control of the NBA, and I believed he would be interested in hearing about Anthony,” wrote Thomsen. “But Thomas was gunshy. It had been three years since his departure from the Knicks and he was still being criticized in New York as if he had never left. He said he didn’t know (former Nuggets exec Masai) Ujiri, and the last thing he needed was to have it leaked that he was involved in the talks for Anthony. He made it clear that he no longer had authority within the Knicks organization, which meant he had everything to lose and nothing to gain. Thomas could see how this would play out: The trade with the Knicks would collapse, word would get out of his involvement and he would be the scapegoat. ‘I don’t want anything to do with it,’ he said.
“I explained why I had assumed that he would be interested in hearing about the negotiations. Anthony had stuck out his neck to force a trade to New York, and if the trade was doomed to fall apart because the Knicks weren’t willing to include a back-end player like Mozgov, then it wouldn’t only be Anthony who would be furious. Anthony’s fellow NBA stars — his close friends — would be angry with the Knicks too, and it would become more difficult than ever for the Knicks to recruit another star in years to come. The future of the Knicks mattered not at all to me, but I figured it would be important to Thomas. He said he agreed with my point of view, as I knew he would, since he had helped me to understand this dynamic over several years of conversations.
The author of a new book says he reached out to Isiah Thomas (right), who influenced the Knicks’ decision to acquire Carmelo Anthony (left).
(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
“Thomas thanked me for the call and then insisted that he was going to keep out of it. His goal was to get on with his own life. If the Knicks were going to make the trade, then let them figure it out.”
But Thomas did not stay out of it.
“My phone buzzed with the call from Isiah Thomas. ‘Well, I passed on the information,’ he said, without saying to whom it had been passed. ‘Now we’ll see what happens.’ The next morning, the news broke that Timofey Mozgov had been included in the Knicks’ offer to Denver. That night the trade was completed.”
The implication is that Thomas passed the information to Dolan, who, as the Daily News reported at the time, went over Walsh’s head to complete the trade. The results of that deal can be debated forever. The Knicks advanced to the postseason for three consecutive years, highlighted by their division title in 2013. But then the franchise spiraled into calamity with Anthony as a main culprit.
The Nuggets never really capitalized on their return (Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, a 2014 first-round pick).
Either way, this story is proof Isiah was involved with the Knicks long after he was fired.
- Join the Conversation: