Stephon Marbury met with Donnie Walsh for all of fifteen minutes yesterday before realizing he wouldn’t be getting a buyout offer to his liking, meaning that, for all the meetings and crazy quotes and column inches spent dissecting the situation, not much has changed. In fact, the only real difference between opening night just over a month ago and today is that instead of paying Marbury to sit on the bench and not play, they’ll be paying him to completely stay away from the team, as was ordered yesterday. (This is basically the arrangement they have with Isiah Thomas; we’d like to envision the two of them watching Knicks games together up in Westchester, eating popcorn and rolling around in hundred-dollar bills.)
Unlike virtually everything else Walsh will tackle in the next year and a half, this has nothing to do with the team’s future cap space. It’s all about Walsh not wanting to spend much more money to clean up Thomas’s mess, and Marbury (as he has every right to do) not wanting to accept any less than he’s owed. (Yesterday’s meeting apparently ended when Marbury — who’d said he’d take $1 million less than his full salary in a buyout, or roughly what he’d make when he signed with another team — got Walsh’s offer of $3 million less.)
For the Knicks, it’s a financial move, but a stubborn one that basically signs them up for another round of inevitable distractions. It’s almost as if Walsh is trying to prove a point: He can fix the money mess or the circus atmosphere he inherited, but not both at the same time. He's decided he doesn't want to pay to quite literally make his problems go away.
The funny thing is, whether or not Marbury is right for Mike D’Antoni’s system, they could actually use him now, with point guards Chris Duhon and Nate Robinson banged up. But we long ago passed the point of no return, and both parties know it. (This was proven recently when Marbury flat-out refused to play after the Knicks’ bench was shortened by trades.) According to the Daily News, Marbury’s likely here (on paper at least) until January 1, at which point they’ll probably bite the bullet and cut him, at least allowing Cablevision to avoid reporting the loss until 2009. Until then, whatever nonsense to come is now the result of a Donnie Walsh decision, not an Isiah Thomas one.