Public War With Fan Favorite Sends A Bad Message To Potential Free Agents

By John Schmeelk
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For some reason, the Knicks have decided to wage war on one of their former players, and not just any player. They have decided that Charles Oakley, a player Knicks fans universally love and respect, needs to be publicly decried and, in many ways, embarrassed.

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As for the incident itself, I wasn’t there, so there’s no way to really know what happened. Did Oakley say anything to deserve to be thrown out, or was he completely innocent in the matter? No one knows the truth but the people who were there. Like the New York Daily News’ Frank Isola wrote Thursday, it’s probably somewhere in between both extremes.

At this point, it also doesn’t matter. It’s impossible to argue with Isola’s other point: The Knicks are not going to win this public relations battle. They are an organization that has had very little success over the past 15 years and has been embroiled in debacle after debacle, from on-the-court feuds between player and coach to very public sexual harassment trials. They’ve already been accused of following reporters around like they are enemy agents rather than someone just trying to do their jobs. The Knicks’ side, even if correct, is not going to be believed by fans.

Fans are going to side with Oakley. They love him. They do not love the current management at Madison Square Garden. Oakley has said publicly that he wants to reconcile with owner Jim Dolan. The best thing they can say now is: “We want the same thing. Let’s get it done.”

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Even if Dolan and the Garden have legitimate reasons to be an aggrieved party in this specific case, they would look far better if they approached this as the adults in the room and accepted Oakley’s olive branch. There’s no upside in continuing this battle and sullying themselves.

Former and current NBA players, including Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade, have already been critical of the Knicks on social media, suggesting they don’t know how to be respectful of their own players and legends. Phil Jackson’s haranguing of Carmelo Anthony in the press lends more credence to these opinions. Why would a big-time player want to come to New York as free agent if they are seen treating their best players, past and present, like this?

The best thing the Knicks can do, even if it means swallowing their pride, is to publicly announce a meeting with Oakley. Have him shake hands with Dolan, invite him to a Knicks game and set up a Charles Oakley Night as part of the team’s 70th anniversary celebration this season. It would shut Oakley up, make the fans happy and make the Knicks look like an organization players would want to be a part of.

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What image does Dolan want of his relationship with one of his beloved former players? Security people harassing one of them at his seat and pushing him to the floor in the tunnel, or being celebrated at center court before the game?

The answer is an easy one, though odds are the Knicks are not going to be smart enough to choose correctly.

SCHMEELK’S SNIPPETS

Stealth Tank Update: Only seven teams have more losses than the Knicks (22-32): the Magic, Sixers, Nets, Pelicans, Timberwolves, Lakers and Suns. The Kings and Mavericks have 32 losses as well. The Knicks are only three games in the loss column ahead of four of those teams below them in the standings. They have a realistic chance of finishing in the bottom five of the league, which would give them a decent chance of jumping into the top three when the NBA conducts its lottery during the playoffs.

The teams most likely to pass the Knicks are the Sixers (playing better with a young team), Magic (looking to make a deal to improve their team), and the Timberwolves (a young improving team with a good coach). There’s an outside shot a young team such as the Lakers make a run, or a veteran team such as the Pelicans as well.

If the Knicks finish with the fifth-worst record in the NBA, they have a 9 percent chance at the top pick, a 10 percent chance of picking second and an 11 percent chance of picking third. That’s a very solid 30 percent chance of getting a top-three pick. Those odds aren’t bad at all.

If they stay at eighth, their odds are reduced by two-thirds, with only a 1o percent or so chance of finishing in the top three.

The Knicks need to keep losing, despite how close they are to the postseason. It’s the best thing for the future success of the franchise.

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For everything Knicks, Giants and the world of sports, please follow John On Twitter at @Schmeelk