LOS ANGELES (AP) - Isiah Thomas is trying tough love on Stephon Marbury.
``I love all my players, just like my mother loved me, but sometimes she snatched me out of the park and had tough words for me and did some tough things to me,'' the New York Knicks coach said after Marbury rejoined the team for Wednesday's night game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
``I want the best for this team. I want the best for every player inside that locker room. And sometimes there are tough lessons that need to be learned and there are tough things that we need to do. Every player that's worn a championship ring, there's a heavy price to be paid. That's our goal and that's where we want to get to.''
Marbury received a $182,000 lesson, the fine levied against him by the team for skipping out on the Knicks in Phoenix and missing their game Tuesday when they lost to the Suns. Against the Clippers a night later, he came off the bench and scored 13 points in the Knicks' 84-81 defeat.
He indicated afterward that any rift with Thomas won't affect his play.
``I'm positive all the way around. I'm covered. I'm fine. I feel good. I'm cool. I could walk with my head up,'' Marbury said. ``I feel like I could go forward and do what I have to do. I have a job to do and that's exactly what I'm going to do.''
Thomas, asked about playing Marbury instead of suspending him, said, ``I've played with people I don't like and I've won with people I don't like. We're a professional basketball team and my job is trying to win a game. Whatever happened in the past is in the past. We move forward.''
Before the game, Thomas said he had spoken with Marbury after he arrived from New York and that their conversation would remain ``in-house.''
But he did say: ``I believe he's capable of leading this team and he's capable of playing great defense. When I see those two things, I think our team can take another step in this league.
``Unfortunately, lessons in life have to be learned on a public stage. He's a kid that made it out of Coney Island, and I think what I'm asking him to do, he's capable of doing. As I said to him before, if he can't do it, we'll have to find someone who can.''
The fine was, in accordance with the NBA collective bargaining agreement for a missed game without an excuse, 1/110th of Marbury's salary, which is $20.1 million this season.
Thomas brought Marbury back to his hometown in a trade with the Suns on Jan. 5, 2004, and the two enjoyed a close relationship while Thomas was solely the team president. Things changed when he also took on the coaching duty before last season.
They clashed early last year after Thomas benched him in the second halves of two games, though they patched things up and Marbury played well the second half of the season.
Marbury spoke to his teammates at the Clippers game, and he said later that he told them essentially the issue was between him and Thomas.
The New York Times reported Marbury spent part of his time away from the team at a Coney Island housing project where one of his former basketball coaches had died earlier Tuesday.
Although Cleveland star LeBron James said he doesn't know Marbury, he was critical of his just taking off from the Knicks.
``I couldn't have a guy like that on my team,'' James said before the Cavaliers' 117-116 overtime loss to Orlando.
Marbury played hard against the Clippers, with a rousing fourth-quarter rally by the Knicks falling just short. He missed a 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining and a driving layup with 19 seconds to go, but made a layup to narrow the deficit to 82-81 with 7 seconds left.
``We came close and exerted a lot of energy trying to get back into the game, but they made some tough shots at the end, and a couple of things didn't go our way,'' he said.
``I knew I wasn't going to start. It was strange, a different type of rhythm. But you get to see what's going on on the court, so I took the positive out of it. Whatever it's going to take to win, and if that's the role I have to play while I'm here, that's what I'll do.''
The Knicks rallied from a 73-57 deficit with eight minutes remaining to catch Los Angeles at 77 with 1:41 left. But Tim Thomas made a 17-footer to put the Clippers ahead, and Cuttino Mobley banked in a 12-footer for a four-point lead with 27 seconds left and Los Angeles stayed in front.

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