Knicks lose again amid Oakley drama
New York Knicks owner James Dolan said Friday he had banned former star Charles Oakley from the NBA team’s storied Madison Square Garden arena after the fan favorite’s arrest there on Wednesday.
The fracas in the stands early during the Knicks’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers was the latest eruption of the long-simmering feud between Dolan and Oakley, who has been critical of the owner’s stewardship of the club.
“Oakley will never be allowed to enter MSG again,” Dolan told ESPN radio, although he later clarified that it was “not necessarily a lifetime ban.”
Dolan, the executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden company, also said that he had sacked the arena’s security chief, Frank Benedetto.
“That was just a situation where the person didn’t work out and this was probably the last straw,” Dolan said.
Oakley, 53, took a swipe at Garden security personnel seeking to remove him from his seat and was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault and criminal trespass.
The Knicks say Oakley was abusive, calling his claim that he was told to leave the arena for no apparent reason “pure fiction.”
“I understand that he was a big star, but that doesn’t excuse people from that type of behavior,” Dolan said.
But the sight of Oakley, a popular figure on the Knicks when they were perennial playoff contenders from 1988-98, being herded out of the stands and handcuffed provoked a backlash from other former and current players.
Respected NBA veteran Dwyane Wade and Clippers star Chris Paul were among those taking the Knicks to task via social media over the treatment meted out to Oakley.
More melodrama was just what the reeling Knicks didn’t need with tension between star Carmelo Anthony and club president Phil Jackson already taking a toll.
The Knicks fell to 22-33 with a 131-123 home loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night — a game where New York fans offered sporadic chants in support of Oakley along with boos for the current crop of Knicks.
New York coach Jeff Hornacek was just as unimpressed with the defensive effort of his starters.
“They couldn’t guard anybody,” Hornacek said. “It’s as simple as that. They should be embarrassed at the way they couldn’t guard anybody.”
Anthony did what he could to fire the Knicks in the fourth quarter, scoring 21 of his 33 points in the last period.
But it wasn’t enough against a Denver team led by Serbian center Nikola Jokic’s career-high 40 points.
It was a fourth straight defeat for a Knicks team that hasn’t put together back-to-back wins since December.
“There’s kind of this cloud over us right now,” Anthony said. “We have to figure out a way to get out of it.”
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