By Grant Hill
Whenever Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan has to turn to making a media appearance, chances are everything is not all gravy at “The Mecca.” With the way things have been going recently, I think it is safe to say that the historically embarrassing New York Knicks have finally hit rock bottom.
The past few weeks have been a disaster of cringe worthy proportions for the team’s fans, executives, coaches and players. We’ve seen a vicious public feud between a team president and a superstar. With a lousy record of 22-33, we’ve also seen yet another lackluster product. All signs point to a team that has given up on the season. The most recent incident involving former Knicks legend Charles Oakley just might have provided the last nail in the coffin.
For those of you who might not be familiar with the Oakley incident, let me enlighten you. On Wednesday night, security was forced to escort Oakley out of Madison Square Garden during New York’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, but the action didn’t stop there. According to ESPN’s Ian Begley, Oakley was arrested by the New York Police Department shortly after, charging him with three counts of assault and criminal trespassing.
In what seems like typical Knicks fashion, the altercation has provided two sides that have completely different answers to the question of “what exactly happened?” Oakley claims that in no way did he demonstrate any kind of behavior that would warrant his ejection from the arena. Rather, he believes he was the subject of groundless harassment by MSG security, a security force run by an owner with whom he shares a contentious relationship. The New York Times also reports that several fans who were in the area of the altercation did not see or hear anything that would justify Oakley’s removal.
The Knicks are claiming the complete opposite. After the game on Wednesday night, the organization released a statement on the incident. Via the Knicks PR Twitter account, they declared that “Charles Oakley came to the game tonight and behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner. He has been ejected and is currently being arrested by the New York City Police Department. He was a great Knick and we hope he gets some help soon.” Anyone with common sense can realize that the organization is suggesting that Oakley might have been intoxicated during the event and that he could be battling problems with alcohol.
The incident caused a huge backlash across the NBA landscape. Fans, media members, current players and former players all voiced their disgust with the way the franchise handled the situation.
In an effort to help eradicate the bad taste in everybody’s mouth, team owner James Dolan gave a rare interview Friday afternoon on ESPN Radio’s “Michael Kay Show.” In the 30 minutes he was on the air, Dolan talked about everything from the Oakley mess to Phil Jackson’s ugly relationship with Carmelo Anthony. He reiterated the fact that Oakley was a nuisance the second he walked through the doors and that he is currently banned from MSG. Though he gave lengthy answers on the Oakley situation, he refused to give any serious answers when asked about the team’s current dysfunctional state or the Melo-Jackson saga.
One main reason why I believe the Oakley altercation was possibly the final blow to a sinking franchise is because the incident was broadcasted on national television. Knicks fans have been predisposed to the team’s dysfunction for some time now. With the Oakley fiasco broadcasted nationally, everyone in the country had a front row seat to the circus.
When trying to understand just how damaging the current state of the Knicks really is, TNT analyst Reggie Miller gave some profound insight. Speaking on both Oakley’s relationship with owner James Dolan and team president Phil Jackson’s relationship with Carmelo Anthony, Miller tweeted: “If you’re a free agent to be, why would you play for an owner who treats the past greats like this or a President who stabs star player in the back?” He’s right, what player would want to come play for the Knicks when they’ve watched all this public shaming and backstabbing occur?
Many fans sided with Charles Oakley, and not just because he was a once great Knicks player during the last proud era of Knicks basketball, but because he stands as a voice that represents how the feel about the franchise. He’s sick of the way things have been run here and so are we. We all want change before they dig a hole that is too deep to climb out.