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Dan Shaughnessy

Smoke signals loud and clear

Exasperated Knicks Jared Jeffries (20), Nate Robinson, and Renaldo Balkman await their turn to get into the blowout. Exasperated Knicks Jared Jeffries (20), Nate Robinson, and Renaldo Balkman await their turn to get into the blowout. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
Email|Print| Text size + By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / November 30, 2007

Say hello to the 2007 New York Knicks. Clowns to the left. Jokers to the right. As dysfunctional families go, the Knicks make the Osbournes look like the Cleavers. This team needs Dr. Phil more than it needs Dr. J or Dr. Jack Ramsay.

The Knicks made their first visit to Boston last night and were thrashed, 104-59. It was another Belichickian win for the locals, who improved to 8-0 at the Garden. Ray Allen played the part of Tom Brady and Paul Pierce was Randy Moss. Doc Rivers kept the Celtics in shotgun formation deep into the third quarter. The Celtics led by 52 midway though the fourth. What a beating.

It's times like this we really miss Red Auerbach, and not just because the Celtics have the best record in the NBA. Red would have loved what is happening to the Knicks almost as much as he'd enjoy seeing his Celtics back on top.

Red hated the Knicks. He hated Madison Square Garden. He loved nothing better than beating the team from New York. It didn't matter that Arnold Auerbach grew up in Brooklyn. For Red, it was all about a snub back in 1938 - when his George Washington Colonials were overlooked by the NIT selection committee. Those were the days when the NIT was the big tournament. Red always believed his team was bypassed because the haughty New Yorkers didn't want to get embarrassed by a little team from Washington, D.C.

And now it is the New York Knicks who are embarrassed. They have not had a winning season in six years. Owner Jim Dolan is a paranoid buffoon (Dolan tried to buy the Red Sox six years ago, so Bud Selig gets some points for that one).

Coach Isiah Thomas is a once-great player who is regularly outmaneuvered by his peers and last summer lost a sexual harassment suit in which testimony exposed the Knicks workplace as a house of horrors to all humanity. The high-payroll Knicks responded with a 2-9 start, tying the worst launch in franchise history. In the middle of it all, Thomas benched his star player, Stephon Marbury, who responded by allegedly threatening to reveal more dirty secrets about Isiah. Marbury is back in the starting lineup and the Knicks had won two straight when they arrived on Causeway Street.

At the end of the night, they were all talking about embarrassment.

"Of course, I'm embarrassed," said Marbury. "We lost by almost 50 points."

There was an embarrassing moment for Marbury in the first minutes of last night's beatdown. Driving the lane from the top left, he had his shot emphatically blocked by Kendrick Perkins. After the facial, Allen buried a transition jumper to make it 10-3, and Isiah called a 20-second timeout. It would only get worse. Much worse.

The Knicks connected on only three of their first 18 shots and trailed, 27-16, after one. With 5:24 left in the half, the Celtics led by 21. It was 43-18 a minute later and 54-31 at the half. It was 65-31 when Isiah called time early in the third. He looked like he'd rather be having lunch with Anucha Browne Sanders. It was 82-37 late in the third. Kevin Garnett was done for the night, but there was no sign of Matt Cassel.

"I feel for [Thomas], I really do," said Rivers. "It's been a heck of a ride the last month, and he's still standing. They've had some distractions, clearly . . . They have their arguments, but they've played hard and they're staying together."

When it was over, Thomas talked about selfishness on the part of his players.

"Every single player was thinking about himself as opposed to thinking about the team," said the coach.

Asked about tension between himself and Marbury, Thomas said, "It's safe to say any player I've ever coached I've been tense with. He's not the first and he won't be the last. But just because there's tension doesn't mean we don't have a good relationship."

Thomas didn't say much else. His next sincere remark will be his first. And before and after the game, the Knicks' PR staff worked feverishly to get him back in the locker room before any hard questions were asked (this week's The New York Observer chronicled the club's adversarial relationship with the Gotham media in a piece entitled "Life in Knicks Hell").

Last night's game went coast to coast on TNT. It proved to be not much of an option for the billions of Americans who couldn't get Cowboys-Packers on the hideous NFL Network, but it's clearly another salute to the Celtics.

"It's nice to be wanted again," said Rivers. "The last time we were on TNT in the regular season, Danny Ainge was doing the games."

Up until four months ago, Ainge was playing the role of the once-adored guard who was running a storied franchise into the ground. That was BG. Before Garnett. Now the Celtics are back on top and Ainge is almost as smart as Theo Epstein.

Meanwhile, the Knicks are 4-10 and Isiah is standing on the sideline, arms folded, staring blankly toward the court. And high above courtside - in the rafters where banners hang and tradition lives - there's a faint scent of cigar smoke.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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