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Wasn't it former Lions coach Wayne Fontes who earned the nickname Rasputin for his ability to take a beating and never die? Fontes came so close to the precipice so many times without actually falling over that he began to brag that he would never be fired. Oops. We don't hear about Wayne much these days, so we? Now meet a Fontes for the new millennium: Isiah Thomas. They've shot him, poisoned him, and even thrown him into the Volga; but the sucker just keeps coming back. No matter what mess he gets himself into, the Dolans just smile and hand him the Medal of Freedom.

But this could all change, and soon. Rumors have the Knicks' brass already discussing successors; it's probably only a matter of time for the former Hoosier.

Thomas' future with the Knicks has been on shaky ground since the day he was found liable in the Anucha Browne Sanders sexual harassment case, and that shakiness has been accelerated in recent days by the Knicks' losing record — they lost their sixth straight game Saturday night in Denver — and the Stephon Marbury fiasco. Thomas could go at any moment. But the bigger questions are who replaces Thomas and who does the hiring? According to several league sources, the NBA is hoping to have some influence on Garden chairman James Dolan, and perhaps even Cablevision founder Charles Dolan, regarding such important matters.


One pictures Isiah walking into a board meeting at Madison Square Garden unexpectedly and seeing a large photo of himself on the overheard projector with a big red line through it. Oops ... awkward. Anyone willing to bet that he'll somehow survive this?

In Hollywood, Less Is More. Wasn't it just last season that Kobe Bryant threw up an 80 on someone? He could score 50 just by falling out of bed. This season, however, he he keeps his scoring totals to less than his age; and the Lakers are winning. Bryant had 18 points — and the Lakers' bench had 73 points — as LA beat Chicago 106-78. It was the Lakers' third straight win.

Pistons Misfire. Not only did the great Beno Udrih score 23 points to lead Sacramento over Detroit 105-95, but now the Pistons are kind of afraid to get on the plane and go back home.

I Want To Believe. Wait Mulder, you're telling me that Stephen Jackson is back (17 points), and the Warriors have won two in a row?

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