The only good things to come of the Knicks' self-created Stephon Marbury saga have been the words of Marbury himself, quotes that have turned this into a tragicomedy.
When he addressed the lack of support from his teammates, specifically Quentin Richardson's criticism, Marbury said: "He didn't care I was his teammate when I was banished."
Banished. Such a dramatic word conjures up images of Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden. But he wasn't done.
"They left me for dead," Marbury told the New York Post. "It's like we're in a foxhole and I'm facing the other way. If I got shot in the head, at least you want to get shot by the enemy. I got shot in the head by my own guys in my foxhole. And they didn't even give me an honorable death."
So now he wants to die valiantly. All of a sudden, it's not the NBA, it's "Gladiator." It's almost enough to make you forget that this is really about a collision of attitudes and money.
There is no way anyone will emerge from this mess with honor intact. Marbury will be stained by the nationwide knowledge that the Knicks prefer him not to infect their team even if it means paying him millions of dollars for nothing in return. The Knicks look dysfunctional for failing to resolve this before training camp and for not presenting a unified front among coach Mike D'Antoni, president Donnie Walsh and owner James Dolan.
There was no settlement Monday in a meeting between Walsh and Marbury, even though the Knicks now are desperate because of the Jamal Crawford trade and injuries to Nate Robinson and Chris Duhon. Plus, their concern about liability and the heart condition of newly acquired Cuttino Mobley (if something were to happen while he was playing, would they be susceptible to a lawsuit, the way the Celtics were with Reggie Lewis?) left them desperate enough to turn to Marbury and ask him to play. Since he didn't (they say he refused, he says he declined), they need to get rid of him so they can use his roster spot to bring in someone else.
Marbury's intention to file a grievance over the two-game suspension and $400,000 in lost salary the Knicks imposed on him shows how willing he is to fight for every last dollar and signals that any buyout discussions will be lengthy and complicated. I hope they are. Because Marbury's comments are the most interesting thing about the Knicks' season now that they have abandoned all interest in the next 19 months and have committed themselves to the free-agent-frenzy summer of 2010.
We should have expected Marbury to invigorate the proceedings. He's the guy who turned into the centerpiece of the sexual harassment lawsuit brought by former Knicks VP Anucha Browne Sanders, and he wasn't even the one on trial. Thanks to Marbury, we had the definitive quote of the whole sordid affair (his query to a female Knicks intern -- "Are you going to get in the truck?"), which led to the term "truck sex" being introduced to the lexicon via New York Post headlines.
Marbury also clarified that he called Sanders a "bitch", not a "black bitch", as if that were a more appropriate way to refer to an executive. He sang and laughed on his way out of the courthouse and provided the non sequitur that, "Money makes you do crazy things, man."
This all was coming off that summer 2007 TV appearance
(check out what happens after the seven-minute mark) that led even Gilbert Arenas to blog about Marbury's mental state. Having Arenas call you quirky is like having Amy Winehouse say, "This woman has issues."
It took a gun going off in Plaxico Burress' pants leg to knock Marbury off the back pages in New York ... but it made Marbury more necessary than ever. There are no bullets in Marbury's story. No possibility of jail time. It's an embarrassment, sure, but it's only that serious if you take Marbury's quotes at their extreme value. In that case, it's a matter of life and death.
J.A. Adande joined ESPN.com as an NBA columnist in August 2007 after 10 years with the Los Angeles Times. Click here to e-mail J.A.