Neither side in the ugly incident between the New York Knicks and Charles Oakley last week has come out looking good, but it may have deeper repercussions for the team.
Last Wednesday, Oakley was ejected for allegedly harassing owner James Dolan during a game. When confronted by security, he got into a physical altercation and was removed from the game and arrested.
However, many around the NBA felt it was unfair treatment of a fan-favourite who played for the Knicks for 10 years and helped them win several playoff series. In the days since the altercation, several notable current and former NBA players have spoken up on Oakley’s behalf, from LeBron James to Dwyane Wade to Chris Paul to Reggie Miller.
This incident may only hurt the Knicks in the long run, particularly in a season in which they’re struggling to win games while team president Phil Jackson wages public feuds with players like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.
“It sure as hell ain’t gonna help,” said NBA TV analyst Greg Anthony in an interview with Business Insider. Anthony, who played four seasons with Oakley and the Knicks during his 11-year career, believes players will look at the Knicks in a different light because of the treatment of Oakley and Anthony.
“It’s one thing to have your struggles on the court, but this is kind of becoming a domino effect where everything that can go wrong is going wrong for the organisation,” Anthony said. “And it creates a tremendous distraction for the players that are still battling and fighting and figuring out a way to get into the postseason.”
The Knicks are staring down a rebuild, and though they have all of their future draft picks going forward, they have never been a team to rebuild slowly through the draft. Instead, they have opted to sign free agents in hopes of improving quickly (they did this just this past offseason, trading for Derrick Rose, then committing over $120 million to Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee). Anthony doesn’t think the Oakley situation will do the Knicks many favours in trying to attract free agents.
“Guys are far more conscientious about their surroundings,” Anthony said, comparing the current generation of players to past generations. “They feel more empowered, I think, as athletes, more willing to make stands and statements about situations like this. You’ve already seen players and some coaches who have come out to voice their opinion about it. So, I don’t think there’s any question that moving forward that this could have an impact on the organisation and their ability to have relationships with the players.”
Anthony said in the past, money may have been the sole concern for free agents. But today, he said, players weigh organizational culture and structure, and that could hurt the Knicks.
“Generally, guys are gonna want to feel like an organisation that they’re gonna go and commit to is going to have their back. I can tell you that there are gonna be serious questions and concerns about that moving forward.”
There is hope for the Knicks, however. They are an historic franchise in a major market in New York City. Plus, they have a young star in Kristaps Porzingis to rebuild around. Those things can be attractive for free agents weighing signing with the Knicks.
“Listen, they’re gonna always be able to sign players to come there,” Anthony said. “But you may not always be able to sign the players you target and prioritise.”
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