The Disgrace Of The Garden - Chris "Preach" Smith
Saturday, February 11, 2017 at 10:14AM

Photo Credit: ESPN Images

As long as I have watched and loved basketball, I have 
watched and been a fan of the New York Knicks.

The events of the past two and a half days have
made me now question that loyalty more severely.
And it hasn’t been since 2007 since I’ve felt this way.

By now, you’ve heard and seen the incident where
former Knicks great Charles Oakley was confronted
by security at Madison Square Garden Wednesday
in the first quarter of a home game against the Los
Angeles Clippers. The entire nation got to see how
Oak was accosted and then dragged over to the
tunnel by security officers and handcuffed while on
the ground thanks to the game being broadcast on
ESPN. The whole scene was surreal, and adds to
the utter embarassment that has surrounded the
franchise for over a decade. Never mind the fact that
the Knicks are in possession of a losing record(again)
or that there is discord surrounding the star forward,
Carmelo Anthony(again) or that there is now a battle
between Anthony and the front office, mainly Phil
Jackson that resembles a cast off scene from “The
Vampire Diaries.” The entire nation now has something
else to hang on the Knicks as a franchise that was
a has been.

But no, we just can’t have this die down. We have an
owner in James Dolan who HAS to essentially dance
among the flames with a kerosene can. That was my
thinking as I caught transcripts of his infamous radio
interview with Michael Kay on his show yesterday
afternoon where Dolan basically not only painted Oak
as a drunken and abusive menace, but essentially
confirmed that he would be temporarily banned from
Madison Square Garden. Hearing the interview and
seeing Dolan sit there with a smug look on his face
as he danced around questions and kept belittling
Oakley’s character was and is galling. But not out of
the ordinary for him.

Photo Credit: New York Daily News

Yet and still, the treatment of Charles Oakley by Dolan
and his staff is disgraceful. James Dolan has proven that
if there is a cancerous element that lives within the New
York Knicks organization, it is him. When you take into
account that the franchise since the ‘Melo trade with the
Denver Nuggets has gone through at least four coaches
and EIGHTY different players on the roster, his insistence
on getting the deal done without any sense of reason is
to blame. Fans have long been incensed at an owner who
hasn’t seen fit to even look towards Patrick Ewing (PATRICK
EW-ING if you want to keep it real as the announcers would
do it)for any position in the organization outside of a
D-League coaching stint. An owner who created chaos via
his friendship with NBA great Isiah Thomas by hiring him
as the GM and seemingly looking the other way with regards
to his actions in the role until a former executive with the
team, Anucha Browne Sanders, had to sue him and Thomas
for sexual harassment. A case that she won in 2007, but
not after a great deal of denial and an environment where
she was unable to find work after. It was at that point where
I started to be jaded about the team’s direction. And it got
more so when word got out a few years later that Dolan
was willing to hire Thomas AGAIN despite the fact that he
and MSG had to cough up $12 million in damges to be in
the front office. That was when then-commissioner David
Stern had to step in to stop the madness and insist that
Dolan hire Donnie Walsh, who had a rep as a good team
builder with his years overseeing the Indiana Pacers.

Think about that a moment. A business magnate who feels
he has a wealth of knowledge and will double down on his
mistakes. You’d be remiss if that didn’t remind you of the
current president of these United States. But that is the
mindset of someone who not only feels they can do no
wrong, but is emboldened by the fact that the end results
prove that no matter what, they will still turn a profit.
And that is the bedrock of fans’ frustration. Dolan still is
the chairman and owner of the Knicks, the one constant
that drives the team and as such, has driven them to be
a near-annual laughing stock. Despite the woes, the team
still ranks among the top of the league in profits through
ticket sales and net worth. He knows it. And he more than
likely feels he doesn’t have to change. Couple that with
the fact that he’s also overseeing the Rangers hockey team
which are perennial playoff contenders and he’s in clover.
But winning seasons are never guaranteed, and consistent
losing will drain your profits.

Let’s break it all the way down. Dolan has now picked a
battle that he will not win. Charles Oakley, for his time
here was the heart and soul of a basketball team and city
that despite the veneer of glitz and glamour posseses a
core of grit, hard work, pride and passion. Oakley was and
is never one to shy away from expressing his opinion. He
and Dolan have had beef for YEARS because Oak will speak
his mind. Oak has been critical of the team because he
loves the team. Oak is still beloved throughout the league
and outside of it because of that. Removing him in that
fashion is, whether intentional or not, an embodiment of
how native New Yorkers have been feeling over the past
sixteen years when you take into account the rising rents,
gentrification and other factors that have changed the overall
look and feel of the city to where they feel like outsiders.

With regards to last Wednesday, I look at it like this. Oakley
went there to take in the game and needle Dolan a bit. The
man has smacked up teammates in the face (I still recall the
time that he gave a two-piece to a teammate in Toronto
during his time there before practice), but I don’t think he
was gonna go and be reckless enough to assault Dolan. All
he has wanted was a sit down with him, face to face. In
return, Dolan has privately shut Oak out of any interactions
with the team that would strengthen ties. If sources are
correct, that has even been exercised through Allan Houston,
a former player with the Knicks who is now in the front office
and reportedly won’t even take his calls. Oakley had been
asked to leave at another game in November, but this was
done in a discreet manner. As much as Oak wanted to maybe
jab Dolan by being in the same section, Dolan took it to an
entirely different level by escalating the situation with a large
security detail and then having the PR staff issue not one, but
TWO brief statements that attempt to paint Oakley as an abusive

If you’re trying to spin it that way, you are in effect trying to
gaslight the public.

Photo Credit: SBNation

If I’m NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, I would be in the
midst of preparing a lengthy sitdown with James Dolan
with this in mind: either you sit down in a mediated
conference with Charles Oakley to get this resolved or
you may have to consider stepping down from your
position and letting someone else be the public face of
the team. Because this will only hurt the New York
Knicks in the long run. The league took great measures
to get Donald Sterling to give up ownership of the Los
Angeles Clippers, but it wasn’t until decades of his
racially antagonistic behavior became too much to bear
for the league to let him continue in that stead. I’ve
had talks with a lot of my friends who feel Dolan needs
to give up ownership of the team along those lines. I
am not confident it will happen unless Silver and other
owners feel that their business overall will be hurt by
what’s going on. There’s already word going around that
potential free agents were wary of coming to New York
to begin with. It’s doubtful that’s improved after this weel.
To that end, disrguntled fans will have to make their
displeasure known in the best way they can. Don’t go to
games, protest. One of my close friends wound up putting
together a campaign stemming from one video 2 years
ago that helped to voice all of the frustration of fellow fans.
“We Want Oakley” will be a constant chant at home games
going forward if the game against the Denver Nuggets last
night was any indication. Money talks where other forms
of speech aren’t heard.

It’s high time to get rid of the disgrace at The Garden. 

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