NEW YORK >> When Charles Oakley was yanked from his seats and put into handcuffs, the New York Knicks didn’t just embarrass a stalwart from their past.
They may have ensured more futility in their future.
Current and former players and people around the NBA, already puzzled by the Knicks’ treatment this season of Carmelo Anthony, were in disbelief at what they saw happening to Oakley on Wednesday night. The 6-foot-8 former Knick was arrested and dragged away from his seats during a game, and Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan banned Oakley from the arena on Friday. That came after team president Phil Jackson tweeted a dig about Anthony and his will to win on Tuesday.
“If you’re a (free agent) to be, why would you play for an Owner who treats the past greats like this or a President who stabs star player in the back?” Hall of Fame player Reggie Miller wrote on Twitter .
Free agency is a problem for July. For now, the Knicks (22-33) are stumbling to the Feb. 23 trade deadline.
They end another turbulent week today against the San Antonio Spurs, a model of stability and success — everything New York isn’t. A couple of wins would halt the Knicks’ slide in the standings, but the fallout from what’s happened off the court won’t be so easy to fix.
“I think the other night, what happened is just an accumulation of an incident on top of an incident on top of everything that’s going on that’s surrounding the New York Knicks organization right now,” Anthony said. “It’s just kind of this cloud over us right now that we have to figure out a way to get out of it, and I think you have to be in it, you have to be going through it in order to understand it. From the outside looking in, it looks bad, and it’s even worse when you’re going through it.”
Dolan made it clear Friday that Jackson will be the one who leads them out of it — if Jackson wants. Either side can opt out of the remaining two years of Jackson’s five-year contract this summer, but Dolan said during an ESPN Radio interview that he plans to give his president of basketball operations the full five years — and maybe even more.
And he pledged again to allow Jackson to make all the basketball decisions, which will include whether to seek a trade for Anthony or re-sign Derrick Rose.
The 32-year-old Anthony’s salary, age and ability to decline any trade make it difficult for the Knicks to find a deal that works for both sides, and a long-term contract for Rose could be risky given his injury history and the questions he created about his own commitment to the team when he skipped a game this season without alerting team officials.
Jackson hasn’t given much reason for confidence that he has the answers. The Knicks had their worst record ever in his first full season and are 71-148 since that 2014-15 campaign, and the damage he’s done to his relationship with Anthony makes it look like he’s better at fracturing a team than building one.
Yet Dolan hardly expressed any disappointment in the radio interview.
“Whether I like the results or don’t like the results, I am going to honor that agreement all the way to the end,” Dolan said, “and it’s not over yet and my hope is that the team will become much, much better and that Phil will be successful.”
Under Dolan, the Knicks have won just one playoff series in the last 15 years. Jackson has been calling all the basketball shots for nearly three years, but fans still direct much of their anger at the owner, more so now after Oakley’s altercation with Dolan’s security staff.
“It will be a lasting memory of all of the dysfunction that has surrounded the Knicks over the past 15 years and poor management at the top,” Marv Albert, the Knicks’ former play-by-play commentator, said the next night while calling a game on TNT.
Anthony said he would never tell anyone not to sign in New York and is still optimistic the Knicks can pull it together and work their way back into the Eastern Conference playoffs. Teammate Brandon Jennings also expressed confidence even after a dismal defensive performance in a 131-123 loss to Denver on Friday.
“I still got hope,” Jennings said. “Something good got to happen.”
It sure hasn’t lately.