(Mateen Cleaves, right, preparing his defamation of character lawsuit against Disney)

The mostly pseudononymous gang at the Sports Journalists.com board are predictably, up in arms over Scoop Jackson’s latest column for ESPN.com’s Page 2. Scoop interviews the mythical “Mr. DJS”, the “alter ego” of NBA Commissioner David Stern, “one who is totally in touch with the players in his league; one who rocks Sean John suits, instead of Armani; one who would have Talib Kweli perform at All-Star halftimes instead of Cowboy Troy; one who seems more concerned with being Robin Hood instead of robbin’ the hood.” And while said work is mostly brutal reading (you feel me?) there’s at least one tiny portion that Jackson can be very proud of.

Q: Dress code.

DJS: Yo, that wasn’t me “ that was them, the players. They brought that on themselves. I’m not taking the heat for that one. Did you see the way Mateen Cleaves was coming to games?!? C’mon, man, what would you do if you was me? I was begging every team he was on to take him off of the injured reserve list just so no one had to see him on the bench in what he called his street clothes. And I’m not even going to start with Damon Jones.

An even-handed approach to Isiah Thomas is not the sort of thing I’d ordinarily associate with the New York Post’s Peter Vescey, who under duress (“if anyone can pretend to know what goes on in James Dolan’s dustbin of a brain, if anyone can come close to imagining the standards he’s using to measure the progress of the Knicks/Thomas, my boss has come to the right yutz. Readers often tell me they’re convinced I write my column SOON after reading Dolan’s mind,”) gives Zeke a vote of confidence. A heavily qualified one, naturally.

What must David Lee do to get promoted? His substitution patterns. Why wait eight minutes into the first quarter to get your most consistent player into the game? And why wasn’t Malik Rose inserted for Eddy Curry in the final eight seconds against the Nets when the situation screamed for someone who knows how to box out? His noticeable dearth of play-calling at the end of up-for-grab games; if Jamal Crawford can’t create a basket, it ain’t originating in Thomas’ cranium. His failure to conserve timeouts to prepare for a legit last-gasp shot has cost the team twice.

Since beginning the season with one win in their first eight Garden games, we’ve witnessed a sizeable upgrade in that pride. Again, for the most part, they’re defending their home turf. Now they’re 11-13. Since the Nuggets fight, a loss, they’re 10-9, a giant step toward Thomas staying off the NBA unemployment line.

Certainly Curry’s assertiveness in the occupied area is a primary factor. But nobody has shown more personal and professional pride, nobody has come back further in the hearts, minds and throats of the fans than Marbury … balling better of late than in the last five years and digging in on defense better than ever.

Another clinical exhibition by the Matrix, Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash took place earlier today, as Phoenix’s 115-100 victory at Cleveland was the Suns’ 17th consecutive. Aside from wondering what might occur in a 7 game series with Dallas, the only remaining question mark I have regarding Phoenix is whether or not Jalen Rose gets a full playoff share.