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|Bobcats coach Larry Brown argues with referee Bill Kennedy during his team's loss to the Knicks.|
NEW YORK -- Larry Brown's revisionist history seemed so appallingly inaccurate in his return to Madison Square Garden that he actually claimed he never had a problem with Stephon Marbury.
Yes, the same Stephon Marbury who engaged in a full-blown, four-day verbal tete-a-tete with Brown back in the late winter of 2006, long before Marbury had his falling out with Isiah Thomas and eons before he got involved in his current controversy with Mike D'Antoni.
The Charlotte Bobcats' coach -- who was terminated by the Knicks in 2006 -- also expressed his love for New York, his understanding of James Dolan's decision to fire him, his high hopes for new team president Donnie Walsh and his admiration for the young talent Thomas brought aboard over the past few years.
So controversy-averse was Brown, he didn't even make a stink when he had an opportunity to lodge a legitimate beef and question the officials' decision to deny Bobcats guard D.J. Augustin a timeout after he stole Knicks forward Zach Randolph's inbounds pass in the backcourt with 9.0 seconds left and tried to call timeout as he was falling out of bounds.
The referees didn't give him the call, the Knicks kept the ball, and Jamal Crawford's two free throws with 6.6 seconds left provided the final margin -- thanks also to a missed 3 at the buzzer by Jason Richardson -- as New York defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 101-98 Wednesday night.
"In slo-mo, it was almost impossible to tell. At full speed, it was even more difficult," NBA supervisor of officials Bernie Fryer said after reviewing the game tape in the officials' locker room with referees Steve Javie, Bill Kennedy and Tony Brown.
"I was inbounds when I caught it, but the ref said I was falling out of bounds when I called it, so you have to go with it," Augustin said.
The bang-bang finish capped a fairly odd yet fairly decent game, given the caliber of the competition -- a pair of teams expected to spend the season at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, each entering a rebuilding mode under a new coach.
Brown was his typically morose self after the loss, while Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni was in a good enough mood to allow himself to be subjected to some second-guessing over one of his more questionable decisions of the young season.
A crowd that included Michael Jordan, Charles Oakley, Chris Rock, Candace Parker and Billy Corgan was mesmerized as Knicks guard Nate Robinson opened the second quarter by scoring 19 points in a span of just 3½ minutes, putting the Knicks ahead 40-28 by the time the spree was over. But Robinson then committed a turnover and a foul, and D'Antoni yanked him with 6:32 remaining.
Robinson didn't return for nearly six minutes and never attempted another shot the rest of the night, and Charlotte came back and tied the game at halftime, went ahead by seven midway through the third quarter and then allowed the Knicks to regain control with a 23-9 run that put them ahead for good.
D'Antoni's explanation for the quick hook:
"I thought he was a like a rocket, and his rocket fuel was low. It could have been a mistake, and he didn't score after that, but I had a very distinct feeling that he was falling back to earth and I tried to get him out before he lost it all," D'Antoni said.
Robinson's thoughts: "It happens. He's the coach. Coach knows what he's doing. The fire that's in you can fade, so you've just got to play. If the shots come, they come. If they don't, they don't. We won, so I'm happy. We're good."
The victory -- and the sideshow surrounding Brown -- provided the Knicks a much-needed respite from the goings-on surrounding Marbury, who will remain on the Knicks' inactive list for the foreseeable future, waiting to see if any of the four guards ahead of him in the rotation -- Robinson, Chris Duhon, Jamal Crawford and Mardy Collins -- get injured.
"I think a lot of teams would like to have him. I watched him in exhibition games and thought he was playing well," Brown said. "He tried to defend, he still can score, and I thought he was in unbelievable shape watching him in exhibitions."
If Brown likes Marbury that much, the Knicks would be happy to ship him Brown's way. That, however, is not happening, and the Marbury controversy should cycle back into full throttle in the days ahead if recent history serves as a reliable guide.
And then, sometime even further down the road, D'Antoni can say something as disingenuous and inaccurate as what Brown claimed Wednesday night: "Steph was never a problem for me."
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The season is only four games old, the Knicks are still a .500 team and D'Antoni is still at a point where he's unafraid to acknowledge he may have made a mistake. Let's see how much all that changes before this season is over, and one day down the road we'll watch for whether D'Antoni tries to put the same revisionist spin on things that Brown did Wednesday night.
If that day ever comes, the next decade might be as horrible for Knicks fans as the current one is.
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.