Isiah Thomas received a huge ovation in the New York Knicks' last game. That won't be the case when he begins what could be the final homestand of his tenure as Knicks coach on Wednesday night when they host the Charlotte Bobcats.

Thomas is nearing the end of his second season as coach, and may be finally replaced after Donnie Walsh was hired last Wednesday as the team's new president of basketball operations. Walsh replaced Thomas, who began his stint as Knicks' president in December 2003.

New York (22-56), which is starting a three-game stretch at home, hasn't had a winning record or won a playoff game since Thomas joined the organization. Walsh will decide Thomas' fate after the season.

Thomas was greeted warmly by the fans in Detroit before New York won 98-94 on Tuesday. He flashed an ear-to-ear grin when The Palace crowd roared after his name was announced before the game along with other members of the Bad Boys, current players such as Chauncey Billups and older greats like Dave Bing.

"It gives me more confidence in the beliefs we have and in what we're trying to do in New York," Thomas said. "It has recharged my battery and makes me want to push harder and further."

The Knicks moved within one win of avoiding 60 losses by building a 23-point halftime lead and holding off the Pistons. Wilson Chandler scored all of his 19 points in the first half and Mardy Collins made a clinching jumper with seven seconds left.

Charlotte (30-48) will join New York in the draft lottery, but the Bobcats also had higher expectations in the franchise's fourth season. Instead they will be hard-pressed to match last season's 33 victories, despite the offseason addition of Jason Richardson.

While Thomas' future as New York coach is less than secure, the same could be said about Bobcats coach Sam Vincent. Majority owner Bob Johnson recently defended Vincent, but part-owner Michael Jordan has the final say on all basketball decisions.

Charlotte won for the sixth time in 10 games, 121-119 over Minnesota on Tuesday. Richardson scored 36 points and Matt Carroll added 22 as the Bobcats shot a season-high 62.3 percent and recovered after blowing an 18-point lead.

"It was closer than we wanted, but we are trying to learn how to win close games," Vincent said. "As long as we come out with a 'W' in this kind of game, hopefully it's a learning experience for the guys."

Gerald Wallace, the Bobcats' second-leading scorer at 19.4 points per game, did not play and is leaning toward sitting out the rest of the season due to a groin injury. He's missed the last two games, and Vincent said the team would proceed cautiously with the small forward.

The Bobcats and Knicks have split two games this season.


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