The New York Knicks are one of the NBA’s original franchises, and their home has been dubbed as “The World’s Most Famous Arena”. The Knicks have called Madison Square Garden home since 1968 and they’ve had some good moments there which included Willis Reed’s epic performance in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals that catapulted New York to their first title. The Knicks would win their second NBA Championship in 1973 and continue to be a solid team which included trips to the NBA Finals in 1994 and 1999. But when the Knicks were eliminated in the first round of the NBA Playoffs in 2001, little did they or any else know what coming down the pike.
19 games into the 2001-2002 NBA season, head coach Jeff Van Gundy resigned as the head coach of the Knicks and since then they’ve employed ten different head coaches. Included in that list of head coaches who couldn’t get it done for the Knicks over this stretch are some Basketball Hall of Famers such as Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown, and Isiah Thomas. But unlike the Knicks of the 1990’s, this organization has not come close to being a championship contender and there is only one man to blame for that.
Since 1999, James Dolan has been the man who claims ownership of the Knicks. Dolan also owns Madison Square Garden, along with the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League, and the WNBA’s New York Liberty. But unlike the Rangers who appeared in the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, or the Liberty who’ve won four Eastern Conference Championships since their inception in 1997, the Knicks are at the other end of the spectrum.
Dolan has become the poster boy of the Knicks ineptitude as they’ve become one of the NBA’s laughing stocks. The Knicks have consistently mortgaged away their future for quick fixes which has done nothing more than set them back further, while also annoying an already furious fan base.
Since the end of the 2000-2001 NBA season, the Knicks have only had three winning seasons and with just 27 games remaining here in the 2016-2017 campaign, another trip to loserville appears to be on deck. But aside from the losing, it is how things are going down for the Knicks.
Since 2014, Phil Jackson has been the Knicks team president. Jackson did bring some excitement with him to the Garden since he won 11 NBA Championships as a head coach, and two more as a player with the Knicks. But when Jackson joined the Knicks, he didn’t have any previous front office experience and it is showing.
As the Knicks president, Jackson is married to the triangle offense which brought him success as a head coach. Jackson’s first hire with the Knicks was making Derek Fisher the team’s head coach. Fisher was fresh off of an 18-year playing career in the NBA. But like Jackson, Fisher didn’t have any previous experience for the post that he was ready to assume. Fisher’s saving grace was the fact that he played for Jackson and was familiar with his triangle offense.
In Fisher’s first season with the Knicks, the team went 17-65 for their worst season in franchise history. In Fisher’s second season, the Knicks were showing improvement as they were 23-31. But Fisher would be fired by Jackson for off-the-court issues which included his missing practice due to the fact that he could not make it back from California as he went to visit his girlfriend. The Knicks would go 9-19 for the rest of the season under interim head coach Kurt Rambis, while Jackson would set his sights on a new head coach.
But there would be a twist in Jackson’s search as Dolan who previously claimed that he would no longer meddle in the Knicks day-to-day operations, wanted a hand in picking the team’s next head coach.
Jackson was focused on another head coach who would run the triangle, but the Knicks would ultimately settle on former Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek. Hornacek has been known to run an uptempo offense, but was open to using some of the fundamentals of Jackson’s triangle. But with Jackson and Hornacek not on the same page, the results have shown in the Knicks record.
The Knicks are currently 22-33 which includes dropping 23 of their last 31 games. The Knicks continue to slide in the standings as they are currently in the 12th place in the Eastern Conference and 3.5 games behind the Detroit Pistons for the final playoff spot. And a disgruntled fan base has to sit by and watch this team crumble before their very eyes.
Jackson has assembled the Knicks current roster and on paper, this would have been a good team five years ago, but the majority of their key players are washed up.
When Jackson joined the Knicks, he knew that he was going to have to convince small forward Carmelo Anthony to re-sign with the team. And in the summer of 2014, Anthony decided to remain in New York as he and the Knicks agreed on a five-year deal for $124 million. Part of Jackson’s sell job to Anthony was that he was going to put a team capable of winning a championship around him. But Jackson has been rebuffed in free agency by superstar players, and he has had to settle for washed up players such as center Joakim Noah and point guard Derrick Rose. Jackson’s greatest claim with the Knicks was drafting power forward Kristaps Porzingis in 2015, but his recent treatment of Anthony leaves something to be desired.
On multiple occasions Jackson has publicly criticized Anthony for his style of play. And on multiple occasions, Anthony has privately spoke to Jackson seeking to have this style of “communication” eliminated, but apparently to no avail. Jackson appears to be a man that is trying accomplish two things. First, Jackson has come across in a mode where he is attempting to get Anthony to waive his no-trade clause, while also trying to get Dolan to fire him with neither of these dreams set to become a reality anytime soon for him.
The only two teams that Anthony appears willing to waive his no-trade clause for are the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers. And whereas the Clippers don’t have the trade assets to accommodate the Knicks, the Cavaliers have no interest in making a deal as New York wants power forward Kevin Love in return which isn’t happening, thus Jackson and Anthony are stuck with each other.
Jackson also drew the ire of Cavs small forward LeBron James when he used the term “posse” to describe his business partners such as Maverick Carter earlier this season. Jackson is continuing to put his foot deeper into his own mouth and this only adds to the hypocrisy of Dolan.
In the past Dolan has gone out of his way to censor Knicks commentators such as Walt “Clyde” Frazier due to his criticism of the team. And part of Dolan firing Larry Brown as the Knicks head coach in 2006 was over his public criticism of players.
However Dolan’s time in operating the Knicks has been marred with lapses in judgement. We’ll never forget Anucha Browne-Sanders’ sexual harassment suit against the Knicks, Dolan, and Thomas in 2007 following her termination. A jury would ultimately rule in favor of Browne-Sanders which would cost Dolan and Madison Square Garden $11.5 million, along with public shame. Browne-Sanders’ claims of sexual harassment were initially directed at Thomas who Dolan decided to stand by which only made things worse. Dolan let his ego get in the way as it would have been very simple for him to cut Browne-Sanders a check for at least $7.5 million to make this problem go away without bringing public embarrassment to his organization, but that wouldn’t be the case.
Dolan’s ego continues to get the best of him as last Wednesday night saw former Knicks player Charles Oakley physically escorted out of Madison Square Garden and arrested. Oakley and Dolan will never be confused as far as being kissing cousins due to the fact that Oakley has been publicly critical of how the Knicks are being operated under Dolan. But Oakley is not saying anything that Knicks fans are saying on the streets of New York City aren’t spewing as they want to see this team win.
The altercation last Wednesday began during the first quarter of New York’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers when MSG security at the request of Dolan approached Oakley while he was seated a few rows behind the Knicks owner. Oakley who was known as a very intense competitor during his playing career immediately became agitated. And after a security member put his hands on Oakley, a scuffle ensued.
The result would become an embarrassing episode for Oakley, the Knicks, Dolan, MSG, and the NBA. Oakley would be arrested and charged with three counts of third-degree assault. Following Oakley’s arrest, the Knicks would make a statement on the matter which was capped off by the notion that the former player should “get help”.
Since then Dolan has fired the head of MSG security Frank Benedetto and banned Oakley from his arena indefinitely. But if Oakley was the aggressor and the one at fault as Dolan has publicly claimed, why did his head of security get shown the door?
Dolan has claimed that Oakley is an alcoholic and was intoxicated at the time of the incident. However Oakley has denied being intoxicated, while he has claimed that MSG security was on him the moment that he sat down. And it is Dolan that must be reminded that he was the one and not Oakley who was checked into a rehabilitation center for drug and alcohol abuse in 1993.
At the end of the day this is something that the Knicks may never recover from under Dolan. Oakley is a Knicks legend as he was the heart and soul of the team during the 1990’s. Basketball fans in New York City embraced Oakley for his rugged style of play as he fought the likes of Charles Barkley, Xavier McDaniel, and Rick Mahorn. Oakley is one of those people that will tell you like it is whether you want to hear it or not which is why he is loved in the Big Apple. But since he spoke the truth about the Knicks and Dolan, he has been given the dry shave.
Dolan has reached out to former Knicks such as Allan Houston and John Starks as they’ve worked for the organization in the past, but not Oakley or Hall of Famer center Patrick Ewing. Ewing is currently an assistant coach for the Charlotte Hornets as the Knicks have all but refused to bring him back in a coaching capacity. Another former Knicks player in Mark Jackson has reached also out to the Knicks in the past as far as being a head coach, but like Ewing he was denied.
Instead of Dolan putting his ego aside in order to broker a meeting with Oakley, he has gone the route of appearing to be a bigger jerk in the eyes of Knicks fans as he’s decided to throw his weight around by sending his “goons” after Oakley, and subsequently banning his from MSG. And with the way that Jackson is treating Anthony, along with Oakley being handcuffed at the Garden, why would any talented NBA player be willing to sign his name on the dotted line in order to join the Knicks?
There’s a possibility that Oakley could sue Dolan and Madison Square Garden and he would have a strong case in his favor. Oakley sat down to watch the game and then MSG security approached him at his seat. But if Dolan expected Oakley to be that much of a problem, why was he allowed in the building in the first place? It wasn’t one member of MSG’s security team that approached Oakley, but several members which was not going to deescalate the situation. An MSG security official then put his hands on Oakley which caused him to react in a physical way. And once Oakley was restrained, Dolan rose up from his court side seat in the manner of a pleased mob boss who had just seen a planned hit orchestrated to perfection.
It also doesn’t help Dolan’s case due to his past drug and alcohol issues, the Browne-Sanders case, or the fact that some Madison Square Garden employees were terminated after they couldn’t make it to work due to Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
We’ve heard the term “starting over” thrown around in the Knicks direction before, but the only solution for the franchise at this point is to have NBA commissioner Adam Silver take the team away from Dolan. The Knicks play in the NBA’s biggest media market and they’ve failed to consistently be relevant for nearly two decades which doesn’t help the league. Penn Station is right under MSG, but the Knicks are the train wreck as the owner, team president, head coach, and star player are not on the same page as the results can be seen on a nightly basis when they take the court.
The Knicks are 22-33, but it is not farfetched to say that this team could struggle to win 10 games for the remainder of the season. Dolan is in a fantasy world as he feels that only a select few fans are displeased with the way that he is running the franchise, while Jackson has taken the term “out to lunch” to another plateau. Hornacek appears to be a nice man who walked into an impossible situation, but he should have known better since Madison Square Garden became a graveyard for basketball careers a long time ago. Anthony had the chance to get out of New York City nearly three years ago. However since the Knicks could offer Anthony more money than any other NBA team, he decided to stay.
The Knicks are so pathetic to the point that longtime season-ticket holder Spike Lee is willing to help Jackson “pack his bags” in order to leave town. But since Lee is a paying customer that is putting money into Dolan’s pockets, he not Oakley can be critical of the Knicks putrid performance.
As I stated in a previous blog post that the Ringling Brothers might be shutting down their circus which has come to the Garden for years, but we still have the Knicks. And at this point not even the Keystone Cops of the Three Stooges could hold a flame to Dolan’s Knicks are far as being clueless.