June 7, 2006 -- ORLANDO - The Knicks' soap opera officially hit Orlando last night as Isiah Thomas finally broke his silence since reports surfaced that owner James Dolan is seeking a divorce from Larry Brown.
And the Knicks president did absolutely nothing yesterday to quash those reports.
Intercepted as he walked toward the Milkhouse Arena inside the Disney Wide World of Sports, coach-in-waiting Thomas spoke for about 30 seconds to greet four Knicks beat writers and a Post photographer. And it was the most telling 30 seconds since the Brown Watch began more than three weeks ago.
There wasn't the slightest hint of a vote of confidence.
"It's the same as we said before," Thomas said. "We won't comment on any of the reports that are out there. We're just here to make sure we do our work draft-wise and try to have another successful draft."
Then, when asked directly if his April 20 edict that Brown will be back still holds true, Thomas smiled sheepishly, shrugged slightly, waved and said, "See you guys later."
Yes, it is later for the lame-duck Brown.
Isiah was whisked away by VP of publicity Jonathan Supranowitz, who was on hand to shield Thomas from the media. Oh yes, the Knicks' soap opera officially hit Orlando.
Thomas' remarks to reporters were more than he said to Brown all of yesterday, as the two did not cross each other's paths or speak.
After giving three roadside interviews last week near the Westchester practice facility, Brown appears to be under a gag order in Orlando. The organization wasn't pleased Brown spoke at all last week.
"I know you have a job, but I'm not allowed. I don't have anything to say," Brown said upon arriving.
When asked if he's ready to confront Isiah, the suntanned Brown said, "No. It's not my place."
Brown showed up one hour before last night's start of the four-day pre-draft camp, while Thomas arrived 15 minutes late.
After the workouts, Brown, before dodging into his rental car, said, "C'mon guys. It's not the time. I feel bad I can't talk to you. I apologize."
Minutes after Brown sped off, Thomas arrived in the parking lot and huddled for several minutes with Wolves personnel director Jim Stack, Isiah's assistant with the Pacers who is expected to be a Knicks assistant candidate once Isiah takes the helm.
Brown and Thomas were the two best-dressed people at the workouts. Brown wore a white golf shirt and pinstriped black slacks. Thomas wore a pinstriped cream dress shirt and brown-colored slacks.
During the 90-minute drill session in which 60 draft candidates participated, Brown sat courtside with his former boss, Indiana president Donnie Walsh. Halfway through, Brown took a seat and chatted with Pacers coach Rick Carlisle. Meanwhile, Thomas was far away, up in the fourth-from-last row of the bleachers, sitting alongside Knicks scout Gerald Madkins.
Brown did not appear to come into contact with any of the 10 Knicks scouts on hand. Brown drove to the complex alone. After the session, Brown was swarmed by well-wishers, including longtime friend Doug Moe, a Nuggets assistant, who playfully hugged Brown and dragged him away with the reporters in tow.
After his conference with Brown, Walsh said, "I know nothing. I'm not talking about that (stuff)."
Brown knew it would be painfully awkward, but he was ordered to Orlando, along with assistant Herb Williams, by Knicks brass. Brown's assistants he brought in from Detroit - Phil Ford, Dave Hanners and Brendan O'Connor - were not invited. There are indications Brown could go home after today's games. Brown has said Thomas hasn't addressed the topic of his future. They've only talked about workouts. Now it's unclear if they're talking at all.
As team GMs, scouts and coaches entered the facility, they all noticed the gaggle of Knicks writers staked out in front and were amused at the circus, but some admitted they were following every detail through newspaper accounts. The Knicks have become not only the laughingstock of the regular season, but the off-season, too, because of their disgraceful treatment of Brown.
Warriors GM Chris Mullin said he had no plans to ask permission to speak with Brown. Brown is close to the Warriors owner, Chris Cohan, his Hamptons neighbor.