Things appear to be turning around for the Golden State Warriors. Isiah Thomas and the New York Knicks desperately need the same to happen.
Mired in their worst losing streak since Thomas became coach, the Knicks return home from a troubling road trip Tuesday to face a Warriors team seeking its third win in a row.
A promising 2-1 start has been long forgotten in New York. The Knicks have since lost six in a row - their worst skid since dropping nine straight from March 19-April 4, 2006 with Larry Brown on the bench - and Thomas has come under fire.
Rumors are swirling his job could be in jeopardy not only due to the team's struggles, but because of the recent controversy involving Stephon Marbury as well as the sexual harassment lawsuit Thomas and Madison Square Garden lost shortly before the season began.
A winless four-game western road swing saw Marbury get fined $182,000 for skipping the team's game at Phoenix to begin the trip. He was back for the final three contests, but in a reserve role, even after it was reported his teammates voted not to let him play before Wednesday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
"That's all we're really concerned about and that's all our team is focused on, how we get better as a basketball team," Thomas said. "All the other stuff you want to talk about, that's up to you guys. But in terms of what we do out on the basketball floor, those are the things that we can control, and out on the basketball floor we had chances to win basketball games."
Two losses during this skid were by three points and another came in double overtime, but the Knicks were handed easily their most lopsided defeat of the season Saturday, 115-83 at Denver. Marbury had a season-low five points and played just 16 minutes.
The point guard said Thomas told him at Tuesday's morning shootaround he would be back in the starting lineup for this game.
"I'm excited about playing always, and to be able to come back home and start and get back into the flow of things is always a good thing," Marbury said.
New York has failed to shoot better than 40 percent from the field in three consecutive games. The Knicks are shooting 40.2 percent during the six-game skid, including 27.7 percent from 3-point range.
"These are times to pull together," Knicks forward David Lee said. "We are pulling together. We need to pull further."
Also absent for two games of the road trip - and three overall - was New York forward Zach Randolph following the death of his grandmother. He missed Friday's game at Sacramento to attend the funeral and returned Saturday to score 16 points and grab 11 rebounds.
The offseason acquisition averaged 23.5 points and 12.0 rebounds in two games against Golden State last season.
The Warriors (2-6) also had a key starter return in their most recent game, and Stephen Jackson helped them to a 106-100 win at Toronto.
Jackson had 17 points and five assists after completing a seven-game suspension for his guilty plea to a felony charge of criminal recklessness.
"It's good to have Stephen Jackson back in our lineup," Golden State coach Don Nelson said. "We sure missed him. He played over 40 minutes but I guess he's well rested."
Jackson's return came two days after the Warriors became the last team this season to enter the win column, beating the Clippers 122-105.
"Sitting at home watching the team start off 0-6 was hard," Jackson said. "I couldn't really criticize or critique anybody because I wasn't there so I just had to try to learn from watching from the sidelines and try to stay in shape as best as I could."
The Knicks have lost eight of the past 10 meetings with the Warriors but won the most recent one, 106-97 at Madison Square Garden on March 2 behind Marbury's 34 points.
A toe injury forced Jackson to miss that game, but he scored 36 points in the Warriors' home win over the Knicks last season and has averaged 21.8 points in his last nine games against them.
Copyright 2007 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited