If there’s anyone who knows what Spike Lee is going through right now, it’s Charles Oakley.
Oakley was removed from Madison Square Garden in handcuffs by security in 2017 after getting into an argument with team owner James Dolan. He was given a lifetime ban from the arena after the altercation and hasn’t been back since.
Fast forward three years later and Spike Lee is getting into arguments with ownership himself and saying he won’t watch games from MSG for the rest of the season. He’s not on the same lifetime ban tip as Oakley is, but it doesn’t feel like he’s too far away.
And, apparently, Oakley has had enough. He’s so fed up with the team that he wants the NBA to step in, he told the Associated Press.
“It’s got to be stopped in some kind of way. The NBA has got to take a look at this. You can’t keep closing your eyes to this. This is like, turn your head if you see someone beat somebody up and you just keep walking. It just keeps happening in New York. People are not going to come here because it’s the same thing over and over and over. They got a new president and all everyone is talking about what happened between Spike Lee and the Garden.”
I mean, he’s not wrong. Nobody even remembered that the Knicks won their game against the Rockets on the day they officially hired Leon Rose. It wasn’t even an afterthought — all people talked about was Spike Lee and the Knicks beef.
It’s hard to see the NBA stepping in and doing anything, really. We’ve only seen that on a few occasions, such as the Donald Sterling incident, and, uh, that ain’t this.
But the Knicks are definitely a mess and will continue to be one until someone cleans them up.
New boss, same old stuff from the New York Knicks.
On the second day of Leon Rose’s tenure as president of basketball operations, the Knicks find themselves in another public relations nightmare, this time with the face of their fans, Spike Lee.
In response to Lee’s allegation of harassment against Knicks owner James Dolan, namely that Madison Square Garden security denied his access to the front-row seat he has held for decades prior to Monday’s game, the Knicks issued a typically obtuse statement on Tuesday afternoon.
“The idea that Spike Lee is a victim because we have repeatedly asked him to not use our employee entrance and instead use a dedicated VIP entrance — which is used by every other celebrity who enters The Garden — is laughable,” the statement said, accompanied by a pair of photos of the employee entrance and a halftime handshake on the matter between Lee and Dolan. “It’s disappointing that Spike would create this false controversy to perpetuate drama. He is welcome to come to The Garden anytime via the VIP or general entrance; just not through our employee entrance, which is what he and Jim agreed to last night when they shook hands.”
That the Knicks learned nothing from a similar incident with Charles Oakley is both remarkable and unsurprising. In the aftermath of Oakley’s arrest by MSG security in 2017, the Knicks issued two bluntly worded statements — one saying, “We hope he gets some help soon,” and another calling him a liar — before Dolan publicly insinuated the beloved former Knicks player is an alcoholic.
In video footage of Monday night’s incident, Lee can be heard repeatedly saying, “No one told me,” presumably about new rules regarding his entrance, and asking if MSG security planned to arrest him as they did Oakley. “Oh, you’re going to put your hand on my back like Oakley?” Lee yelled.
Lee told ESPN on Tuesday morning that he had been using the employee entrance to the arena for 28 years — until the previous night, when he said security approached him on the elevator to the Garden floor after his ticket was already scanned. According to Lee, security asked him to exit the building and re-enter through the VIP entrance, but he refused, citing distrust of MSG personnel.
Lee said security asked him to leave again. According to ESPN’s Malika Andrews, a Knicks PR staffer denied that Lee was ever asked to leave the Garden, citing a “mixup” over which entrance he was supposed to use and referencing a jovial conversation between Lee and Dolan at halftime. Lee was eventually escorted to his seat by security. Dolan approached Lee on the Garden floor at the half, but the acclaimed director said he refused to engage the billionaire owner on the subject.
“I’m being harassed by James Dolan, and I don’t know why,” Lee said on ESPN’s “First Take” on Tuesday morning, taking issue with the spokesperson’s portrayal of his conversation with Dolan.
Lee added that he does not plan on attending another Knicks game this season.
His TV appearance spurred Tuesday’s statement calling his remarks “laughable” and a “false controversy.” Regardless of whose vantage point is closer to the truth, it is incredible that the Knicks would engage so negatively and publicly with their most high-profile loyalist, rather than diffuse the situation behind closed doors. Another PR nightmare in a decades-long line of them.
“What’s laughable is how the Knicks are the laughingstock of sports,” Lee responded via The New York Times’ Sopan Deb on Tuesday, again contradicting Dolan. “That’s what’s f—ing laughable.”
“This press release, which is upsetting me, is an unmitigated, bold-faced lie. Capital letters,” Lee added amid saying Dolan addressed him “very rudely” at halftime. “On my late mother and my late brother’s grave, this is a lie. That they say that they had repeatedly asked me not to use the employee entrance. That is a lie. … I challenge MSG to send me an email saying the policy has changed. Show me that email. And I challenge Madison Square Garden to have someone stare me in the face [to say] they repeatedly told me I cannot use this entrance. This is typical Garden spin.”
The Knicks fired their fourth coach in four seasons earlier this season, and when that expectedly did little to rectify their 20 years of futility, they fired team president Steve Mills days before the trade deadline. Rose officially took over on Monday. In between, the Knicks hired Steve Stoute as a brand consultant in charge of reshaping the team’s image. Stoute proceeded to insinuate interim coach Mike Miller would be fired at season’s end during a nationally televised interview on ESPN.
The hiring of Rose, a longtime power agent, was the next stage of the rebrand, akin to how ex-agents Bob Myers and Rob Pelinka reshaped the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers, respectively. Rose was said to have been given full control of basketball operations. In a statement addressing the challenges ahead, Rose said on Monday, “Nothing about this is easy, or quick, so I ask for your continued patience. What I promise you in return is that I will be honest and forthright.”
While Monday’s incident was not a basketball-related one, per se, it does suggest that the line between the product on the court and the conduct off of it is blurred, and it is hard to rectify one without addressing the other. As Lee said, when issues run this deep, the problem starts at the top.
Director Spike Lee went ballistic Monday after being denied entry to Madison Square Garden, where his beloved New York Knicks hosted the Houston Rockets. And there’s video (see below).
Lee, who won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for “BlacKkKlansman” in 2019, erupted after he attempted to use the arena entrance reserved for employees and the media and was stopped cold by security, the New York Post reported, citing an unnamed source. (Lee was supposed to use the VIP entrance.)
In the video, Lee can be heard yelling. “No one told me,” he repeats. “I’m staying here. And if you wanna arrest me like Charles Oakley, go the fuck ahead.”
Oakley, a former Knicks player, was ejected as a spectator from a 2017 game after yelling comments critical of team owner James Dolan and scuffling with security guards. He was later arrested by the NYPD.
On Monday, Lee did eventually take his seat. Dolan spoke with the famed filmmaker at halftime to “resolve the issue,” the New York Daily News reported, citing a source.
Lee had to have been happy with what happened on the court. The lowly Knicks stunned the Rockets, 125-123.
Here’s Lee reacting to the game courtside on Monday.
Knicks assistant Keith Smart was also fired. Assistant coach Mike Miller was named the interim head coach.
Fizdale was in his second year on the job after a 17-65 finish to the 2018-19 season. The Knicks hired the former Memphis Grizzlies head coach during the 2018 offseason when the team had its sights set on rebuilding around the free-agent class of 2019.
Fired in Memphis during his second season in 2017, Fizdale arrived in New York with a reputation as a players’ coach.
Personnel blunders in New York
The Knicks, behind the executive leadership of general manager Scott Perry, team president Steve Mills and owner James Dolan, made the decision last season to trade Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks in an effort to clear cap space for the 2019 offseason.
With their sights set on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in a blockbuster free-agent class, the Knicks instead settled for Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis, Wayne Ellington and Elfrid Payton. Durant and Irving signed with the crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets instead.
The Knicks also missed out on the Zion Williamson NBA lottery sweepstakes and settled for RJ Barrett with the No. 3 pick in the draft.
With the makeshift roster lacking All-Star-level NBA talent, it’s fair to ask what could have reasonably been expected of Fizdale’s team on the court. He wasn’t in charge of personnel decisions in New York. But as the double-digit losses piled up, it became clear that his job was in jeopardy.
Fizdale was in the second year of a four-year deal reportedly valued at $22 million. He finished with a 21-83 overall record with the organization.
Even before a startling news conference in the wake of a blowout loss to Cleveland on Sunday, New York Knicks president Steve Mills had started to lay the internal groundwork for the eventual dismissal of coach David Fizdale, league sources told ESPN.
Mills is selling owner James Dolan on a roster constructed to be highly competitive in the Eastern Conference, leaving Fizdale vulnerable to an ouster only weeks into the second season of a four-year contract that league sources say is worth $22 million.
Days before exiled star Kristaps Porzingis returns to Madison Square Garden with the Dallas Mavericks, Mills delivered the first public salvo on shaping an organizational narrative that the Knicks’ struggles aren’t born of an overmatched roster, but the lack of a “consistent level of effort and execution.”
Rival coaches and executives see a mismatched Knicks roster slow of foot, without legitimate NBA guard play, but Mills is selling Dolan on a poorly coached team that is underachieving at 2-8 to start the season, league sources said. Around Madison Square Garden and the league, the timing and tone of the news conference was met with considerable surprise and dismay — and it was considered to be a complete undermining of Fizdale.
“Everyone is moving to their positions now,” a league source close to management and the coaching staff told ESPN. “This is how they’ll make (Fizdale) the fall guy.”
Fizdale told reporters Monday that the front office has “been very supportive to me.”
“The fact we talk every day,” he said, describing how he feels supported. “We are in constant communication with each other. We’re very raw with each other. Good or bad. None of us have an ego about it. We’re all on the same page of where we are trying to get to. End of the day, we are all in this together.”
Asked if he had received any assurances about his job, Fizdale said: “I got a two-and-a-half year contract. That’s my assurance. That’s our business. The assurance is about I have a contract.”
After the Knicks’ 108-87 loss to Cleveland, Fizdale had been meeting with players in the postgame locker room when Mills led general manager Scott Perry into an impromptu news conference. It is customary for a head coach to be the first team official to talk to the media in a postgame setting, but Mills marched to the lectern to tells fans that the Knicks had fallen short of management’s expectations.
“Scott and I are not happy with where we are right now,” Mills said. “We think the team is not performing to the level that we anticipated or we expected to perform at, and that’s something that we think we collectively have to do a better job of delivering the product on the floor…”
Mills has presided over the arrivals and departures of five Knicks coaches. His overall record as team president is 165-337, including 48-126 since taking the job over from Phil Jackson in 2017.
As an organization, the Knicks could have survived missing out on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in July free agency — but the trading of Porzingis to the Mavericks for role players and two first-round picks looms far more devastating to the franchise’s future.
Porzingis asked for a trade in February after management was unable to correct a rift with him — or convince him of a path toward competency in the Eastern Conference.
Fizdale chose the Knicks over several other offers in 2018 — including Atlanta, Charlotte and Phoenix — under the assumption that he’d eventually coach Porzingis. Fizdale accepted responsibility for the team’s struggles in his own postgame news conference Sunday night.
“I take the brunt of that responsibility because I am the head coach,” Fizdale said. “I make these decisions — what’s happening on the court, what players play, who plays together, what plays we call the defensive system. That’s on me.”
Security confronted a fan who chanted ‘Fire Dolan’ at the Knicks-Cavs game
That was on full display during Sunday’s 108-87 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With the Knicks trailing by 28 points in the third quarter, a “Fire Dolan” chant broke out at Madison Square Garden as frustrated Knicks fans urged Dolan to sell the team. It’s unclear how the Madison Square Garden staff would be able to pinpoint the origin of a “Fire Dolan” chant, but videos hit Twitter that showed a fan getting escorted out by security.
The tweet claimed that the arena security was ejecting the fan who started the chant, and when another fan mockingly chanted, the six (!!!) security guards turned to threaten another ejection.
Though the video showed security escorting the fan out of the section, a Knicks spokesperson told For The Win that “no one was ejected last night from MSG for any reason.” A person claiming to be the fan in the video tweeted that he was removed from his seat for the chant.
New York Knicks coach David Fizdale is taking full advantage of his top rookie.
RJ Barrett has seemingly been on the court nonstop through the Knicks’ first seven games of the season. He’s averaged 17.7 points and 6.5 rebounds while playing 36.5 minutes per game so far, and played 40 minutes in the Knicks’ 113-92 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night.
Yet it was Fizdale’s decision to put Barrett back into the game with just six minutes left despite the game essentially already being over that turned some heads at Madison Square Garden. Putting the No. 3 overall draft pick back in the game during garbage time can be seen by many as a big risk, especially this early in the season.
Fizdale, though, isn’t having it.
“We got to get off this load management crap,” Fizdale said, via the New York Post. “Latrell Sprewell averaged 42 minutes for a season. This kid is 19. Drop it already.”
Barrett looked fine against the Kings, dropping 22 points and five rebounds while shooting 8 of 22 from the field. It marked just the third time he’s scored at least 21 points for the Knicks, too.
To Fizdale’s point, Latrell Sprewell — who played in the league from 1992-2005 for the Golden State Warriors, Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves — did average more than 40 minutes per game four different times throughout his career, and even hit a career-high 43.1 minutes during the 1993-94 campaign when he was 23 years old.
The league, though, was a completely different place back then. And every player is different. There’s no telling if Barrett could handle having to play that frequently longterm.
Nearly every organization in the NBA has embraced the “load management wave” by now, a strategy that wasn’t around even a decade ago. Teams will frequently sit players or restrict their minutes on certain nights — particularly on back-to-backs — in order to ensure they can stay healthy throughout the lengthy 82-game season.
While it can frustrate fans, especially those hoping to see their favorite players play in person, it’s a pretty smart strategy for teams to implement. It can truly make a big difference down the road.
Fizdale, however, clearly isn’t a fan.
And, for what it’s worth, Barrett isn’t concerned about his minutes either.
“What do you think?” Barrett said, via the New York Post. “I’m 19. I’m good. If I felt it wasn’t, I’d tell him.”
Star Knicks rookie RJ Barrett sat down with star Knicks fan Spike Lee to have an epic conversation. In this wide ranging discussion, the two New York legends discuss RJ’s path from Duke to the Knicks, the long New York Knicks championship drought and much, much more.
Kevin Durant said Tuesday that the New York Knicks can’t rely on their “brand” to land the best players, many of whom don’t even remember the franchise being good.
“I think a lot of fans look at the Knicks as a brand and expect these younger players in their lifetime don’t remember the Knicks being good,” Durant said Tuesday in an in-studio interview with Hot 97 in New York. “I’ve seen the Knicks in the Finals, but kids coming up after me didn’t see that. So that whole brand of the Knicks is not as cool as let’s say the Golden State Warriors, or even the Lakers or the Nets now.
“You know what I’m saying; the cool thing now is not the Knicks.”
The speculation during last season was that the Knicks would make a full-court press to sign Durant once he became a free agent, but he instead signed a multiyear contract with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency.
On Tuesday, Durant said he didn’t seriously consider the Knicks in free agency.
“I thought about it, yeah, just a thought. But I didn’t really do any full analysis on the Knicks,” the 2013-14 NBA MVP and two-time NBA Finals MVP said.
The Nets have said they are not planning on the 10-time All-Star playing this season as he recovers from the ruptured Achilles he suffered in the NBA Finals with the Warriors.