On Sunday, Chris Paul drove right in isolation against Kurt Thomas. Thomas hacked him, stumbled backwards and toppled over, injuring his right foot in the process. The floor creaked, he creaked. Last night – the second night of a road back-to-back – with the Knicks already missing Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Rasheed Wallace, Thomas chose to play against his former teammate. You know, Ty Corbin. The Knicks won 90-83.
Today, however, comes sad news: according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, an MRI revealed that Thomas has a “stress reaction/stress fracture” in his right foot, an injury which might end his career. Knicks fans are sad. This is Kurt Thomas after all, Stephon Marbury’s better half, an ode to the cherished pain of the early 2000s. These days he’s no more than six fouls and ref gruff-itude and a refined definition of efficiency of movement, but there’s still love there. Last night was all of that multiplied through 27 minutes, Mike Woodson pushing the limits of his shrunken lung capacity. ESPN’s Jon Barry treated every Thomas play with surprised reverence: “What a smart play by Kurt Thomas!” was also “Kurt Thomas, really?”
But Thomas is neither metaphor nor articulation of lost basketball eras. He’s not a “veteran leader,” and he doesn’t “get it” and he’s not “cerebral.” His hard screens aren’t statements about the state of NBA screening. He’s just an old dude that can’t move and will foul you viciously to compensate. His screens are violent because he can’t roll to the rim anymore; if he’s not going anywhere anyway, he might as well introduce you to a piece of his shoulder.
Instead, he’s a guy that gets dressed. It’s what he does, and what he’s been doing since he left the Knicks in 2004. It’s what he did last night. It’s why he’s made seven pitstops since returning to the Knicks this season. He puts on his socks and shoes and shorts and jersey and sits on the end of the bench. So if this is the end, it seems all the more fitting – a final, valiant and last stand, physically forced out of the game. But if it’s not, as Jared Zwerling suggests, here’s to many more flying elbows.