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Knicks fine Marbury for skipping game in Phoenix

NEW YORK – The New York Knicks fined Stephon Marbury more than $180,000 for skipping Tuesday night’s game at Phoenix, the latest clash between the team’s star point guard and coach Isiah Thomas.

The Knicks sent Marbury a letter informing him of the fine, according to a person with knowledge of the penalty who spoke to The Associated Press yesterday. He requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss it. The Knicks would not confirm the fine.

The team plays tonight in Los Angeles against the Clippers. It isn’t known if Marbury will attend that game, or if the Knicks would fine him again if he doesn’t show.

According to the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, players are docked 1/110th of their salaries for a missed game. With Marbury scheduled to earn $20.1 million this season, that would be about $182,800.

Marbury told the New York Post on Tuesday he had permission from Thomas, also the Knicks president, to leave the team, but Thomas would not confirm that. He did say the team would welcome back Marbury.

Thomas refused to discuss any potential penalties against Marbury before the game on Tuesday, saying the matter would be kept “in-house.”

Several of Marbury’s teammates said his departure took them by surprise, but they expressed no hard feelings.

“You always support your teammates,” forward Jared Jeffries said Tuesday night. “A lot of people on the outside don’t understand what guys go through with their family, their friends, with this team, with anything. Whenever somebody goes through a tough time you support your teammate.”

Marbury played poorly down the stretch in New York’s 75-72 loss to Miami on Sunday, and the Daily News reported Tuesday the Knicks were trying to reduce Marbury’s role or get rid of him entirely.

That created tensions between Marbury and Thomas – neighbors in Westchester County who share the same agent. The two reportedly even fought on the plane to Phoenix, which the Knicks denied.

“There is no truth to that whatsoever,” said Knicks spokesman Jonathan Supranowitz, who was on the flight.

Messages left for the agent, Jordan Bazant, were not immediately returned.

Marbury is still one of the Knicks’ best players, averaging 15.2 points and 6.8 assists. But he and Thomas clashed early last season after Thomas benched him in the second halves of two games, and Marbury caused the Knicks some more headaches this summer.

He behaved erratically during a televised interview, then testified in a sexual harassment trial against Thomas and Madison Square Garden that he had a sexual encounter in his truck with a team intern, smiling and singing on his way out of the courthouse.

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