Chris Mannix's Boxing Blog
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NEW YORK -- I'm running out of words to describe the Knicks' abysmal play. Fortunately for me, head coach Isiah Thomas already has some.

"No heart," Thomas said after the Knicks were crushed by Indiana 119-92 at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. "We don't grit it out for 48 minutes. We don't grind, we don't compete the way we should. ... Tonight we didn't collectively play with heart or compete the way I know I do."

By invoking his past experiences as a player, Thomas was putting the blame for the Knicks' woes squarely on his players' shoulders. He even referenced the 2006-2007 Knicks, a group that won only 33 games but, in Thomas' words, "had heart."

He's right, but the Knicks' systematic decline is a collective effort that has to include Thomas and owner James Dolan, who, judging by the disgruntled look he displayed from his courtside seat Monday, had to be wondering why he gave Thomas a blank check to run his franchise.

Some other musings:

• You have to start considering Wizards forward Caron Butler a legitimate candidate for the NBA's MVP award. Butler has been a force in Washington, averaging 22.1 points and 6.9 rebounds while propelling the Gilbert Arenas-less Wizards to fourth place in the Eastern Conference through Monday. You can read more about Butler and the Wizards in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated.

• While the Rockets can't be happy with their 12-12 start, they should be pleased with Yao Ming's continued development. Thanks to a stronger command of the English language, Yao has been more vocal this season. Last week, after a disappointing loss at Philadelphia, Yao called his team "soft," and he has been more demonstrative on the court. "It's good for him," point guard Rafer Alston said. "He understands the caliber of player he is. He understands if he is getting fouled, he deserves to get the call. And when teammates aren't getting after it and playing with a lot of hustle and intensity and desire, he has the right to say something."

• In SI.com's preseason predictions, I listed the Hornets' viability in New Orleans as the season's biggest controversy. It hasn't been pretty in the Big Easy, as a rebuilding city has struggled to support the team. The Hornets continue to draw low numbers, and the league has to be wondering how much longer the city can support an NBA franchise.

• I still believe that Jason Kidd will wind up in Dallas. I don't think the Mavericks believe they can win a championship with the current formula and will eventually cave and send a package that will include Devin Harris to New Jersey for Kidd.

• Orlando appears to be coming back to earth. The fast-starting Magic have been terrific on the road (12-4) but unable to protect their home court (5-5). They face a stiff challenge in the Southeast Division from hard-charging Washington. "Other teams don't have any respect for us when we play at home. When we play at home, it's like Disney World," Dwight Howard told the Orlando Sentinel. "It's all smiles and funny. We can't have that."

• A final thought on the Knicks: Late in the fourth quarter Monday, the MSG crowd began a full-throated "Fire Isiah" chant that rocked the arena. About the same time, the team's organ player began blasting notes at what sounded like twice the normal level. I guess that's one way to make them stop. 

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