Charles Oakley is the least of the New York Knicks' problems

The Washington Post

Regardless of the events that led up to it, or why they approached him, this much is clear: Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, Knicks legend Charles Oakley put his hands on multiple security guards and was arrested for doing so. This is something even Oakley didn't argue during his day-long media tour Thursday, telling The Undefeated's Mike Wise he "shouldn't have put my hands on anyone."

But because this is the Knicks, and because this involves Knicks owner James Dolan, this story isn't that simple. It's never simple at 2 Penn Plaza, The Garden's address in midtown Manhattan and the epicenter of a never-ending stream of insanity over the past 15 years.

That explains why the Knicks — rather than just letting this story die on its own — threw a giant can of gasoline on it not once, but twice, with incendiary statements from their PR department (no doubt at the direction of Dolan himself, as a result of his longstanding feud with Oakley). The first, which came Wednesday night, ended with, "He was a great Knick and we hope he gets help soon." The second, which came after Oakley spoke to media outlets Thursday, ended with, "Everything he said since the incident is pure fiction."

The incident occurred during Wednesday night's game between the Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers. After taking his seat a few rows behind Dolan's customary front row baseline seat, Oakley was approached by several security guards. Oakley has been a frequent critic of Dolan's management of the Knicks. Following what appeared to be a brief conversation with the guards, Oakley wound up putting his hands on several of them before he was dragged out of the arena through a tunnel and arrested. Play stopped as both teams looked on in disbelief. In the bowels of the Garden, Oakley could be heard yelling that this was all Dolan's fault; at one point Knicks team president Phil Jackson tried to calm him down.

At this point, whether Oakley or the Knicks are to blame for the situation is irrelevant. By the way they've handled this story, Dolan and the Knicks have made Oakley into a martyr, somehow making one of the franchise's most popular players ever even more popular. Players from around the NBA, including LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, took shots at the Knicks on social media, attacking them for the way Oakley was treated. All of this comes back to a central point: after the non-stop lunacy that's surrounded the Knicks over the past 15 years, the franchise has left itself lacking credibility in virtually every situation. This week has been especially ugly on that front, given the combination of the ugliness with Oakley and Jackson's latest escalation of his own feud with Carmelo Anthony. Jackson wants to trade the Knicks star but can't, because Jackson needlessly gave him a no-trade clause.

Knicks fans deserve better. Few fan bases in the league are more passionate and more devoted than the faithful that pack Madison Square Garden year after year, hoping against hope things will change. But instead of focusing on finding ways to improve the team and put a consistent winner back on the court, the Knicks instead are far more concerned with optics, perception and taking down enemies.

Some blame the fact that New York is a big media market as a reason why the team has struggled. This is nonsense. No team has more attention on it every day than the Los Angeles Lakers, and that franchise has been as successful as any in American sports.

The Knicks are a mess because of moments like Jackson taking a veiled shot at Anthony on Twitter and Dolan needlessly escalating his feud with Oakley. If you think this week won't have longstanding ramifications for the franchise, just look at how both of those decisions echoed around the NBA universe, and received near universal condemnation. The NBA is a small world, and both Anthony and Oakley are far more popular within it than Jackson and Dolan. This week won't be forgotten.

It's the latest black eye in a series of them for Madison Square Garden over the past 15 years, and it'll only get worse. Oakley won't be going away, and his case is going to be non-stop news in New York. Meanwhile, the next two weeks will be filled with Anthony trade rumors — all while the Knicks have gone 8-22 since their high-water mark of 14-10 in early December.

That's the 29th best record in the NBA since then. Who has the worst? Well, that belongs to the Brooklyn Nets.

At least the Knicks have that going for them.

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