HoopsHype.com Behind the Beat

Marc Berman: "The tension between Brown and Marbury is gone"
by HoopsHype / January 23, 2006

The media in Toronto seems to report on basketball as intrigue, rumors and drama - almost more so that the actual games played. In your opinion, does the media environment of a city affect a player's performance and/or willingness to play in that city?
- Kevin Hill (Toronto, Canada)

Marc Berman: Without question. In fact, Isiah Thomas finally acknowledged recently it takes a certain type of mentally tough player to be a Knick because of the media attention and tough Garden crowd prone to booing everything from a missed free throw to a turnover. Isiah admitted he doesn't have enough of those players and he seemed to be referring to guys like Jerome James, Quentin Richardson or Jamal Crawford. The willingness to play here, though, usually is strong because the Knicks overpay players. Toronto and New York are similar in their media frenzy. While New York has more print journalists, Toronto has the edge in TV and radio types. It seems every Canadian TV station attends the Knicks coach's post-game press conference at Air Canada Centre.

Who's the toughest player to deal with as a journalist you've found?
- Raul Torres (Madrid, Spain)

The toughest Knick I've ever had to cover is Stephon Marbury and I don't mean that disrespectfully. Stephon is tough on journalists. He'll admit to that. Marbury will at times answer controversial questions with a "no comment'' or "next question.'' His pet peeve is when you try to rephrase a question he already wouldn't answer. I've had my battles with him on that, to a point where two seasons ago he iced me for a whole six weeks. The one thing I respect about Stephon is he treats everyone the same. He doesn't play favorites with some guys. He'll be just as abrupt to a journalist he likes, if he doesn't embrace the question. And I have to say, Marbury has been been a lot more forthcoming, candid and quotable in recent weeks.

If Isiah Thomas could turn back the clock, what do you think is the move he would not make again?
- Mike Williams (Tulsa, Oklahoma)

MB: If I could turn back the clock, I would change Isiah's decision in his first season to break up the team after they had won 7 of 8 entering the All-Star break and were playing with wonderful chemistry. That's when he unloaded Michael Doleac and Keith Van Horn for Tim Thomas and Nazr Mohammed, both gone now. The Knicks still haven't recovered. For some reason, Doleac and Van Horn played cohesively with Marbury. Isiah will disagree. If Isiah could turn back the clock, he never would've signed Vin Baker (twice, once for part of the mid-level exception) or Jerome James. The $30 million signing of James is arguably the biggest waste of money in Knick history. Isiah's only defense is he did not know he'd get Eddy Curry.

Has Antonio Davis privately expressed any regret about going into the stands in Chicago?
- James Blackmon (Chicago, Illinois)

As of this writing, Sunday night, Antonio had not rejoined the team so I have not talked to him one-on-one. Knowing Antonio, I'm sure a lot of it is bluster, his "I'd do it again'' no-apology diatribe. He has told a teammate privately he's sorry he hurt the team. Shockingly, those words were not uttered in his conference call.

How would you rate Larry Brown's job in New York so far?
- Mark Trinidad (New York)

MB: Larry's been as erratic as his rookies. It took him too long to figure out a starting lineup and he still doesn't have a clear rotation. His recent stance that the rookies Frye, Nate and David Lee shouldn't be put in this situation of having large roles demeans Isiah. Larry's basically saying the roster is so weak he has to play rookies. As for covering Larry, it's been a joyride. His candidness writes my story every day. Larry might as well just carry my computer. And he's such a nice guy, regaling us with long-ago tales from his winding career. He seems to remember the name of every player he has ever coached.

Where is the Marbury-Brown relationship headed?
- Adam Hahn (Hermosa Beach, California)

MB: This is turning into one of the brightest points. Since the Orlando fiasco a month ago when they stopped speaking, Marbury has stepped up his play to a great level and now they joke around all the time. He's become the extension of the coach on the court. The tension for now is gone. Larry constantly calls him now "our leader and best player'' without hesitation. Marbury's absence the past three games - all losses - has shown Brown he's the engine that drives the Knicks and trading him for role players would be catastrophic.

How would you describe your relationship with the other Knick beat writers?
- Steve Hampson (New York)

MB: The Knicks beat has seven traveling writers - Mike Dougherty of Westchester-Gannett, Greg Logan of Newsday, Steve Adamek of the Bergen Record, Howard Beck of the NY Times, David Waldstein of the Star-Ledger, Frank Isola of The Daily News and myself. We like to joke about the trip last season to Chicago when we each stayed in separate hotels. Seven guys, seven hotels. But that was just a weird quirk. We actually get along quite well and go out to dinner on off nights on the road. There are some cliques - fights that occur occasionally but nothing that ever lasts too long. We're around each other too much - waiting for flights in airports, waiting for practice to end, staying in the same hotels and of course sitting next to each other in the arenas. I can honestly say I personally like every guy on the beat right now very much because everyone has a strong sense of humor and thick skin. That's not always been the case in my eight years. While it's true The Post and News engage in a bloody daily war, rumors that Isola and I are at odds have no merit.

How much power do you think Peter Vecsey has in the NBA and in your paper?
- Adam Hahn (Hermosa Beach, California)

MB: It's great to have Vecsey on your team. He's an intimidating presence and a must-read three times a week during the season. I hear writers from other papers try to knock him, but I know one thing: they read his every word. And that's the biggest compliment of all.

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