Unlike most demotions, Stephon Marbury's trip to the bench last week had nothing to do with being a bad player.
It's just the opposite.
Isiah Thomas holds the Knicks' point guard to a higher standard, and he's the latest coach trying to turn Marbury's considerable talent into something more than just good statistics.
``That potential was always there and a lot of coaches have seen it, a lot of people have seen it, but nobody's really been able to capture it and put it together,'' Thomas said. ``I believe it's there and my job is to try to capture it and put it together. There's been a lot who've tried, there's been a lot who have identified it and seen it. I don't think I'm different than any of them.
``When you look at Marbury, you see the package. He has all the things and all the qualities that you would want from a point guard. Now it's a matter of getting that to translate onto the floor.''
When Thomas removed Marbury from the starting lineup last week, it became the third straight season Marbury clashed with a coach. He feuded with Larry Brown in 2005-06, then got off to a rocky start with Thomas last season.
But Marbury said he had no problem with a coach being hard on him, noting that Flip Saunders was very tough in Minnesota.
``I love Stephon,'' said Saunders, now coaching the Detroit Pistons. ``He's one of my favorite guys. Going through this, people probably think, `What are you thinking of?' But he's one of my favorite guys I've ever coached. When I told him things, he responded. He always needed tough love. The tougher you were on him, the better he responded.
``We played a game in his rookie year in Phoenix, down 16 into the fourth quarter and I told him, `This is why we brought you here, to play games like this against Jason Kidd.' He was unbelievable with like 16 points in the fourth and we won by 15.''
Though it's sometimes forgotten because of the drama that surrounds him, Marbury is still a good player who entered this season with career averages of 19.9 points and 7.9 assists.
Hall of Fame-type numbers, just not a Hall of Fame career, so far.
Marbury has never won a playoff series, and New Jersey and Phoenix both became elite NBA teams right after trading him. But Thomas won't stop trying.
``You've got to max out, and my job is to get him to a point where he maxes out,'' Thomas said. ``I'm not going to give up on Marbury. Because I do believe, just like people have seen it since a young age, there's something there and we just have to figure out how to make it work.''
Thomas was a Hall of Fame point guard, and few know the position better. So when he treats Marbury differently, it's because he knows he's supposed to see more than he has from other point guards he has coached.
``I look at him differently because of his talent,'' Thomas said. ``The things that I demand from him I didn't demand from Jamaal Tinsley. There's a certain approach with guards that you've got to have. I mean I'm not asking Nate Robinson to do the things that Marbury is capable of doing. He's got it, and our job is to get it.''
SANTA CLYDE: When Boston put together its trio of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, a comparison was frequently drawn to a Houston team of a decade ago.
Charles Barkley already dismissed the analogy, and Clyde Drexler joined in this week.
Barkley noted the Boston group is younger, saying he, Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon were ``way too old, we were all past our primes,'' by the time they got started in 1996. They were together two seasons, failing to reach the NBA finals.
To Drexler, it isn't a question of age, but experience.
``Ray Allen and Garnett are not young puppies, but the difference is I had gone to the NBA finals and we had won,'' Drexler said. ``I had gone like three or four times and I had won a title. Hakeem had two titles and Charles had been to the finals, so we had already had a taste of what it was like to be at the pinnacle of the game.
``None of these players have had a chance to even participate even deep in the playoffs. From that perspective, it's a little bit different. We were a little bit more accomplished I believe. But I really like what they offer.''
Now, Drexler wants holiday shoppers to like what NBAStore.com offers.
The league relaunched the Web site this month and is getting an assist from Drexler, who will deliver a grand prize of Spalding's new ``BEAST'' portable backboard system, along with a rack of balls, to one shopper in ``Drexler's Slam Dunk Delivery.''
``They've got me playing Santa Clyde,'' Drexler said.
Anyone making a purchase on NBAStore.com before Jan. 15 is eligible to win one of the prizes, which total $10,000. Ten customers will receive a ``thank you'' call from Drexler, but he said the bigger reward goes to the one who gets the personal delivery.
``If they're really nice, I may even teach them a dance step or two,'' he said.
Drexler was referring to his stint on the TV show ``Dancing With the Stars'' last spring. He joked that while men remember him for his Hall of Fame playing career, more women now recognize him for his dancing.
``This is the only country in the world where you can be pretty decent at something, but people know you for something that you're terrible it,'' he said.
D-LIGHTED: The regular season only tipped off Friday night, and already it's been a good one for the NBA Development League.
Now with 14 teams and the hopes of someday doubling that, the NBA's minor league was already making a bigger impact than ever in its seventh season, even before the 50-game schedule got under way.
D-League president Dan Reed cited three reasons for the league's growth, both economically and in importance to NBA clubs.
The league opened itself to independent local ownership, becoming more interesting to community leaders than when it was simply based in the Southeast. The league then created formal affiliations with NBA clubs, then allowed NBA teams to buy their own D-League clubs. The Los Angeles Lakers were the first to do that, and San Antonio did last season when it purchased the Austin Toros.
we continue to grow to 30 teams.''
To do that - and to further grow in stature - the D-League would eventually have to reach the Northeast. NBA commissioner David Stern considers that a goal, but only when multiple teams can be placed there, so there can be true road trips, rather than having a team from the West travel across the country for only one game.
In the meantime, the D-League is pleased with what it has. There were 10 players assigned by NBA teams to their D-League affiliates before the regular season began, bringing the total to 72 in three years since the creation of formal affiliations.
More than 90 have been called up to the big leagues during that span.
``We are certainly making an impact and fulfilling our mission to be the best developers of talent in the world for the NBA,'' Reed said.

Top NBA Public Bets

NBA Top Stories

Thumbnail Nuggets vs. Lakers Pick Are the Denver Nuggetsgoing to cover the spread as a road favorite tonight at 9:30PM ET when they play the host Los Angeles...
Thumbnail Bulls vs. Suns Pick Are the underdog Chicago Bulls going to send the host Phoenix Suns...
Thumbnail Pistons vs. Timberwolves Pick Are the Detroit Pistons going to cover the spread as an underdog tonight at 7PM ET when they play at the Minnesota...
Thumbnail Pacers vs. Heat Pick Are the Indiana Pacers going to stay within the number this evening at 5PM ET when they play at the Miami...

NBA Team Pages