Knicks’ problems are many

Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Now for the real Team Turmoil.

The title that was supposed to belong to the Lakers has been stolen by the New York Knicks, who have already been through high-profile lawsuits, player-coach disputes and near-record-setting ineptitude.

And the season is only 8 weeks old.

The Knicks (8-18) are in disarray in almost every respect heading into today’s game against the Lakers.

They scored 59 points in a loss to Boston last month, the second-lowest total by New York in the shot-clock era, which came a few days after Stephon Marbury and Coach Isiah Thomas reportedly exchanged harsh words on the team plane after the embattled point guard found out he was being pulled from the starting lineup. (Marbury is currently away from the team indefinitely while grieving his father’s death.)


Two weeks ago, Thomas was in the national spotlight after he and his employer, Madison Square Garden, reached an $11.5-million settlement on a sexual-harassment lawsuit brought by a former team executive.

And Lakers fans thought their team had issues before the season began.

Speaking of which, Kobe Bryant revisited another part of his stormy off-season, as has been the custom at several cities in which the Lakers play. (Reporters from almost every city try to provide their own take on his situation, leading to similar questions on practically every stop.)

Bryant revealed on the record that the Knicks were on his short list of teams that he wanted to be traded to over the summer, joining Chicago, Dallas and Phoenix.

He also declined another opportunity to retract his trade demand.

“I’m not going to address the situation,” he said to a question from a New York reporter. “I’m going to focus on our team and focus on one thing and one thing only, that’s the New York Knicks.”

He gave his reasons.

“Since training camp, we all said that we weren’t going to address the situation, we weren’t going to talk about it,” he said. “I’m going to continue to live up to my end of the bargain.”

As for the game itself, Bryant said his strained left groin was feeling better and that he looked forward to becoming the youngest player to reach 20,000 career points. He needs 20 points to get there today at 29 years and 4 months old.


“This is the mecca. This is the center of basketball,” he said. “To be playing in Madison Square Garden and have the opportunity to do it there would be special.”

It might be welcome entertainment for Knicks fans, although Lakers Coach Phil Jackson sent a warning to his team after its 106-101 victory Friday in Philadelphia, saying it better not be “crowing” about an easy opportunity because “we’ve never been able to stop Zach Randolph when he was in Portland.”

The beefy power forward is averaging 18.3 points and 10.3 rebounds since being traded to the Knicks during the off-season.

Jackson again did not dismiss the Knicks when asked about them Saturday.

“Last year, they looked like they were building toward the process of being a playoff team,” he said. “I actually think that they have a chance to be in the playoffs this year, and they still do, but there’s a lot of distractions. Tremendous distractions.”


Bryant didn’t get to play in last season’s game in New York because he was suspended for striking San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili in the face with “a stiff arm backward in a hard motion,” as NBA disciplinarian Stu Jackson said at the time.

Predictably, the Lakers, who were also without Luke Walton and Kwame Brown that game, lost, 99-94.


Knicks fans started booing when the suspension was announced before the game.

“It makes you feel good because they appreciate what you’re doing,” Bryant said Saturday.

Bryant was asked if he ever appealed the decision to Stu Jackson.

“Who?” Bryant said twice, smiling. He then compared his avoidance technique to that of a former teammate.

“Get my Shaq on,” he said wryly, referring to Shaquille O’Neal.


Jackson, as he occasionally does, delved into a political analogy when saying Thomas was in a no-win situation with the Knicks.

“He’s kind of like in the same position [President] Bush is in,” Jackson said. “No matter what he does that’s good, no one’s going to give him a break anyway. Everything that the team does that doesn’t look good, he’s going to get blamed for it.”


at New York, 9 a.m. PST, Ch. 9

Site -- Madison Square Garden.

Radio -- 570, 1330.

Records -- Lakers 16-10, Knicks 8-18.

Record vs. Knicks (2006-07) -- 0-2.

Update -- The Knicks continued their losing ways with a 105-95 defeat Friday at Charlotte. They are 7-8 at home, 1-10 on the road.