POINT OF NO RETURN
April 1, 2006 -- Has Stephon Marbury played his last game as a Knick?
Before Marbury went down last night with a strained right knee, possibly for the season, Larry Brown said the Knicks will seek a classic point guard this summer, believing Marbury is no longer equipped to play the position full-time.
Brown said in a bombshell remark Marbury likely will play shooting guard, if he's back, feeling he's lost a step defensively.
Now, Marbury is stepping very gingerly after the Knicks announced he has a strained patella tendon after landing awkwardly on a runner in the lane with 3:43 left in the first quarter in their 117-112 loss to the Sixers at the Garden in which they blew an 11-point second-half lead.
Marbury will undergo an MRI exam today and there's a small chance the team could shut him down for the final 11 games, joining Channing Frye. Marbury, according to Brown, complained of knee pain the day before and played through last season with knee stiffness.
However, Marbury was not on crutches. He sat on the bench in a black pinstriped suit for the second half. Marbury left before reporters were let into the locker room.
Brown's pregame remarks were stunning, as he never even brought up the name of Steve Francis when discussing the roster.
In Brown's most candid remarks about Marbury's defensive flaws, the coach said, "Guarding people out on the perimeter, with all their quickness, I mean, he's not getting younger."
Marbury is 29 and playing on two surgically repaired ankles. The Knicks' defense keeps getting more deplorable; they've allowed 106 points per game in March alone. And the breakdowns have started on the perimeter.
Hornets free agent Speedy Claxton, who played for Brown in Philadelphia, is on the coach's wish list
. Claxton is a good defender, ball-handler and looks first to set up others. The former Hofstra star is behind Rookie of the Year shoo-in Chris Paul.
Claxton could be available for the $5 million mid-level exception, the only avenue other than a sign-and-trade in which the Knicks can obtain a decent free agent.
The Raptors' Mike James is another possibility, but it looks like "The Amityville Scorer" is seeking a payday in excess of the $5 million exception.
"We definitely need to get a guy who has that [point-guard] mentality," Brown said. "The more I see Steph, the more convinced I am he can play both positions - defensively [at shooting guard], without any problem. Offensively, I think he's great coming off screens. I really like him off the ball. I like the way he guards the 2-guard."
Brown said if they can't get add another point guard, he told Isiah Thomas "maybe it's Jamal [Crawford], maybe it's Nate [Robinson]."
That Brown did not mention Francis, whom the Knicks obtained five weeks ago, was bizarre. Francis, too, has struggled defensively, with turnovers (2.4) and has averaged 3.3 assists.
Marbury asked Brown in November if he could play shooting guard because he didn't feel playing the point in Brown's offense was fun.
That has been an overriding issue this season: Marbury buying into Brown's system. Brown said Marbury could still play some point guard next season.
"I'd love to have three-guard rotation," Brown said. "If you have a guy like Stephon whose played the point and you know he can play off the ball, it gives you some options."
Brown has been thinking about next season's overhaul. He revealed he's making Thomas a list of young players eligible for free agency.
"I've been trying to identify those kids all year," Brown said. "I look at rosters. Kids who might be a free agent, kids two years ago who were highly sought in the draft and it hasn't worked out for them. I've got a whole list of guys for Isiah."