GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) -Yes, the Knicks are bad. That's OK, because so are many other teams in the Eastern Conference.
That's the message from Isiah Thomas, a champion as a player who sounds content with mediocrity as a coach.
``You really have to put it all in perspective,'' Thomas said Sunday after practice. ``You look at our conference, there's a lot of teams with 10 or 13 losses, and just a lot of teams in the situation we're in right now. Got to keep working to get yourself out of it.''
New York tries to start doing that Monday night when it hosts Dallas, possibly without Stephon Marbury. Marbury didn't practice Sunday and has struggled through two games since his father's death. Thomas said his point guard is having a difficult time emotionally and will be a game-time decision Monday.
The Knicks are 6-13, falling into last place in the Atlantic Division after they were swept by the Philadelphia 76ers in a home-and-home series. New York lost 105-77 at home Saturday, putting no starters in double figures.
Thomas broke out his everyone else is bad, too, message before that game and repeated it after. To be fair, he's right: Boston, Orlando and Detroit are the only East teams with fewer than 10 losses.
It's a new spin on, ``If you can't beat them, join them,'' and hardly seems appropriate from someone who was as tough a competitor as Thomas was while winning an NCAA championship at Indiana and two NBA titles with the Pistons.
But losing is allowed now at Madison Square Garden. MSG chairman James Dolan gave Thomas a message of support following Saturday's game, according to some reports Sunday.
Thomas refused to directly address his conversations with Dolan, but acknowledged having support of his boss.
``I think we understand where we are and what we're trying to accomplish. And again, for us it's really about just trying to keep everything in perspective in terms of where we are in the league, where we're trying to go in the league,'' Thomas said.
``When you look at the East in general, it's a conference right now where there are a lot of teams that are similar to us. So we're not beyond regrouping, just like those other teams aren't beyond regrouping. That just suggests you got a lot of work to do, and we're capable of doing the work and we'll see where we are at the end of the year.''
Dolan may be satisfied, but many fans certainly aren't. The Knicks were often booed Saturday, with Thomas the most frequent target. There were a few ``Fire Isiah!'' chants, which the MSG staff responded to by playing music to drown out the fans' voices.
``Well, if they played the music, I still heard the chants,'' Thomas said with a laugh. ``It's safe to say I heard the chants and didn't hear the music. Now if they asked me what music they were playing, I couldn't tell you the song, but I could sure as hell tell you what they were chanting.''
Thomas said he wasn't angry with his players, and isn't even yelling at them. Because they hear so much negativity, he reasoned, it's up to him to tell them positive things to rebuild their confidence.
``I've yelled at them before and I've been hard on them before, this isn't the time to be hard on them,'' Thomas said. ``They were suggesting maybe two, three weeks ago that I was too hard on my players for benching Marbury. So this isn't the time to kick the dog, so to speak. This is the time to give them a lot of love and support and that's what I do as a coach.''
Thomas declined to say if those suggestions came from the players or the media.
Thomas has become an expert at focusing on the good when most see only ugly. The night after the Knicks' 45-point, nationally televised loss at Boston, he pointed out that New York had still won two of three. He used the same optimism following the woeful performances against the 76ers.
``It was only two games ago we were playing pretty good,'' he said. ``You can't overreact. This is a league that you have some bad nights and you have some good nights. We're the same team that won in New Jersey and before that had won a basketball game. So we're OK.''
Apparently, that's good enough.

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