The Image Problem for the Knicks

Guest Writer for this week: Asher Vongtau


“I want to say I'm sorry to all the fans,” Oakley said. . “It was just a bad scene. I love New York. I gave my heart to New York.” (NY Daily News)

The Knicks suck. I imagine fans are tired of rooting for a team so expensive and yet so mediocre. After spending so much money on a husk of the former MVP Derrick Rose and about $70 million on the offensively-challenged Joakim Noah, the team is ten games under .500 and very unlikely to make the NBA playoffs. The outlook in the franchise lately has been bleak and is only getting worse in my opinion.

Forget the mediocrity on the floor, forget that the Knicks allow about 109 points/game, or that their best player rarely gets engaged on the defensive end, the Knicks have an image problem to deal with now in addition to their basketball woes. For starters, pun intended, President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, seasoned-veteran in the art of sub tweeting and negative reinforcement, has made it his mission to oust Carmelo Anthony from the team via a series of thinly veiled criticisms of the star player’s game, effort and commitment to some triangle thing he keeps talking about.

Most notably, in an atypically typo-free tweet, he recently  a former player of his, Michael Graham who was dismissed from the CBA team the Albany Patroons after a violent spat in the middle of a game.

Jackson was speaking in specific reference to a Bleacher Report article written about how his expectations for Carmelo would eventually doom the Knicks (which it definitely has). Certainly the parallels between Graham and Anthony are sparse, as are the ones drawn in the Kevin Ding article between the New York Knick forward and other Jackson disciples Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. But that didn’t stop the team president from starting drama.

These and other misadventures - including Derrick Rose’s ill-timed disappearance last month – have soured the mood for what was once a promising season (for all of five games). Personally, if I was Phil Jackson, I would just admit that it was luck that I won so many rings and just retire this zen-master aesthetic but you know how power can affect people. Power men tend to let their ego dominate the decision making apparatuses in their mind.

Which brings me to the other facet of the degradation of the Knicks’ image.

During a game against the Clippers on Wednesday, Charles Oakley a former Knicks player and 1994 All-Star was publically, violently thrown out of a game, reportedly at the request of famous idiot owner James Dolan, the other powerful man annoying Knicks fans and players. I would like to say this surprises me but I watch a lotta dramatic TV series and the draw of good drama is a continuous stream of plot twists and turns.

Apparently the beef between James Dolan and Charles Oakley has been going on for years. I’m not gonna do any research on this; I’d rather just blindly speculate because honestly it’s more fun. Oakley is a legend. Various NBA players: LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade have voiced support in that capacity. He was, from Shaq’s perspective, the heart and soul of his team. So, for the life of me, I cannot understand why someone as legendary in stature as that would be treated so hostilely in the “Mecca of Basketball”, a place where he gave his, blood in competition. What’s worse is the Knicks’ PR’s efforts to further vilify Oakley.

They used language that made it seem like drugs and alcohol were the cause of his reaction to the treatment by Madison Square Garden security, when in fact as my sources tell me, it is more about his well-known allergic reaction to being fucked with.

Nobody likes to be fucked with and just looking at James Dolan, one can tell that he is the kinda rich white guy that likes to fuck with people. I get it; if I owned a failing franchise, I’d be looking for distractions off the court, anything to distract me from watching another Knicks game. And it worked, for a time. The Oakley incident distracted the world as well as the  Clippers for all of three and a half quarters. Eventually the Knicks lost the close game and despite attempts to ruin Oakley’s image, much of the damage from this public disgrace has been inflicted on the Knicks organization as a whole and perhaps on the NBA.

My sources on Twitter (via @TommyBeer) tell me that the Knicks won 70 playoff games in the 10 years that Charles Oakley played there, yet have only won 9 in the 17 years that James Dolan has owned the team. For all them expensive tickets, it’s obvious who should really have been escorted out of the building. You GOTTA treat your former players better. Even Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves reconciled. It’s not easy to build for the future, the last thing you wanna do is discard the glories of the past.

So what does Dolan do in regards to facing the ghosts of knicks past? He invites estranged Latrell Sprewell and Larry Johnson -  who both did not look particularly happy to be held captive as part of a PR stunt -  to pose as metaphorical bandaids for the gaping wound that is the Knicks’ public image.

Reports surfaced  Monday night, as per ESPN’s Ian Begley suggesting that the NBA’s commissioner Adam Silver has intervened and forced a sit-down between Oakley and Dolan. As someone who has no plans to pay anymore than $20 for a Knicks game, I would give a kidney to be in room when Dolan catches the dependably large rebounder hands of Charles Oakley.

Drama! Like I said, I watch a lot of it on TV and the Knicks are starting to rival primetime shows in that respect. I personally love it but I doubt the long-suffering, formerly winning franchise does. For one, this Oakley situation is bad press not just to the Knick alumni but also discouraging to potential free agents.

Bottom-line, the Knicks have an image-problem. Long story short, I definitely won’t be taking my talents to the garden and I’d be surprised if anyone who’s actually good at basketball does so anytime soon.