Storyline: Charles Oakley Incident

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Last month, Oakley appealed the dismissal of his civil lawsuit against Dolan and Madison Square Garden. Oakley, 56, sued for defamation, assault and false imprisonment stemming from a February 2017 incident in which Oakley was arrested and thrown out of the Garden following an altercation with security. After the incident, Dolan banned Oakley from the Garden and suggested Oakley “may have a problem with alcohol.” The suit was dismissed last month because Judge Richard Sullivan believed Oakley didn’t make a plausible legal argument to support his claims and that Dolan had the right to remove Oakley from the building.

Two days after Oakley was arrested and dragged out of the Garden in February of 2017, Dolan famously invited several former players — including Latrell Sprewell — to attend a game. It was a transparent attempt to show Dolan had support despite the Oakley fiasco. One of the players in attendance, Vin Baker, told the Huffington Post at the time that Dolan “called me sounding really sad asking me if I would come sit with him. Hadn’t spoke to him in 15 years.” Lee, however, was clearly supporting Oakley. He wore a #34 Oakley jersey at his courtside seat and criticized Dolan for calling his friend an alcoholic.

Other celebrities have had their privileges revoked by Dolan. A source told the Daily News that another director and longtime Garden presence, Woody Allen, was banned several years ago from Suite 200, which is a VIP club at MSG. Allen’s crime was refusing to do promotions for MSG, according to a source. If Allen still attends Knicks games, he’s no longer being showed on the MSG Network telecast. Actor Ethan Hawke said he stopped receiving free tickets because he criticized the Knicks’ handling of Jeremy Lin on “The Jimmy Fallon Show.” Actor Michael Rapaport also said his comped tickets were stripped because he supported Oakley.

“From its inception, this case has had the feel of a public relations campaign, with the parties seemingly more interested in the court of public opinion than the merits of their legal arguments,” Sullivan wrote in his opinion. “That is perhaps understandable, given the personal and public nature of the dispute.” Thursday, lawyers for Oakley filed a notice to appeal that decision. That will move the case to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and to its next stage. “Charles is not one to give up,” Doug Wigdor and Renan F. Varghese, the attorneys for Oakley, said in a statement. “While we are disappointed with the ruling, it’s just the beginning of the fourth quarter and we are confident that we can turn this around with an appeal that we have filed today.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Wigdor remains confident he can prove Dolan and Madison Square Garden made defamatory statements in the days following Oakley’s run-in with security. The Knicks’ public relations account released a statement on the night of the incident that said Oakley, who played for the Knicks from 1988 to 1998 and helped the franchise reach the 1994 NBA Finals, was “abusive” and added “we hope he gets some help soon.” In an interview on ESPN Radio two days after the incident, Dolan said, “To me, Charles has got a problem. We’ve said it before; he’s his own worst problem. People have to understand that. He has a problem with anger. He’s both physically and verbally abusive. He may have a problem with alcohol.” This is one of subjects Oakley’s legal team plans to attack in court.

The people in courtroom 905 at the U.S. Courthouse in lower Manhattan were told to rise at about 2:35 Friday afternoon. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan entered and took his seat, and the next step in Charles Oakley’s civil suit against James Dolan and Madison Square Garden was underway. Oakley and Dolan weren’t there. But lawyers for the former Knicks forward and the Knicks owner were. It marked the first appearance before the judge in the case. This was a pre-motion conference.

The feud between James Dolan and Charles Oakley continues into the courtroom. After Oakley was forcibly removed from Madison Square Garden last February, the Knicks owner responded by briefly banning him from Madison Square Garden, and mentioning Oakley has a drinking problem. Oakley responded to Dolan by bringing him to court for a defamation suit. He says what took place at the Knicks game in February was an unnecessary use of force on the part of Dolan, and MSG, along with calling him an alcoholic. Dolan’s attorneys are now filing a request to have the suit dismissed.

Dolan’s defense is that Oakley’s behavior at MSG that night required removal. He claims that Oakley took his seat and began insulting security. Amy Dash, a CBS Sports Legal Analyst, broke down the suit in detail on her website. In the three page letter to the court, Dolan’s attorneys accuse Oakley of having, “a long, documented history of altercations with law enforcement and security personnel” and called the February 8, 2017 incident at MSG, where Oakley clashed with MSG guards and was hauled out of the Garden screaming during a Clippers game, just the latest example of his “recidivist behavior.” Comparing him to a repeat offender, Dolan’s attorneys directed the court to another lawsuit filed in 2011 between Oakley and the Aria Resort and Casino which details, “prior incidents in which Oakley cursed, punched, kicked, and bit security guards trying to restrain him and threw a bystander’s camera into a hotel pool; punched a guard in the face; and sent a hotel employee to the hospital by throwing dice at his face.”
3 years ago via ESPN

Former New York Knicks great Charles Oakley is preparing to file a civil suit in response to a February run-in with security at Madison Square Garden and the incident’s aftermath, sources familiar with the matter told ESPN. Oakley’s civil suit is expected to be filed shortly, per sources. Oakley hinted at the possibility of taking civil action against Dolan when he accepted a deal to have charges stemming from the incident dismissed. It is unclear if the civil suit will specifically target James Dolan, the owner of Madison Square Garden and the Knicks, or the larger entity of Madison Square Garden.

But in hindsight, Oak said he feels it was calculated to steer All-Star Weekend away from the ugly spectacle of his arrest-by-force at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 8. It didn’t fix the years of ill will between himself and Dolan that detonated in the Garden stands last week. Bygones can’t be bygones yet. “I’m not happy,” Oakley said. “I told them I’m not happy. They’re tryin’ to sweep this under the rug. I gotta think about this. They tried to tell me, ‘Let’s get some understanding around this.’ I told them in the meeting, ‘My understanding is, it might be three, four, five years before I come to a conclusion how I feel about going back in the Garden. I’m not just going back in the Garden because you want to honor me.’

“I know Oak personally so that was real tough to watch,” Paul said. “To hear them say they hope Oak is going to get some help, like he was mentally ill or something, that was tough. Since I’ve come into the NBA, we talk about looking out for younger players. Oak has been a guy who’s always checked on me, injury or anything like that. So to see him treated in that fashion in that arena was tough. I can speak for myself, but for other players I’m sure it was tough.”

Star players have come to Oakley’s defense, but James has a contrasting takeaway. In New Orleans to accept the Bobby Jones Award from the Christian organization Athletes in Action, James told The Post he thinks Oakley needs to grow up in retirement and not act like the “bully’’ he was as a player. “When people allow who they were to get in the way who they’re trying to be today … it’s about growth,’’ said James, who retired in 2014 after 13 NBA seasons, including a title with the Pistons. “So why not try to figure out a new way — not feel like you’re losing your manhood — that you’re gaining? “That’s the hardest thing for him,’’ James added. “You lived as a bully your whole life. At some point, even the bully has to realize bullying isn’t really that cool.”

James emphasized Oakley was a terrific teammate and veteran leader as a player, but would be better served if he changed his tough-guy persona in retirement, especially if he has eyes on landing a job with the Knicks. “He was known for smacking cats in the face if they stepped out of line,’’ James said. “If he said he was going to do something, he was going to do it. As an owner, if you have a big black man pointing a finger at you, I don’t care who you are. He says he’s going to do something — and has been known for doing something his whole career — what makes you think this situation is going to be any different? “When you can be the baddest person and yet be the softest person, that’s just about growing up and presenting a different type of person in a different type of way,’’ James added.

On Jan. 31, when Barkley was in the midst of a back-and-forth with Cavaliers star LeBron James, Oakley chimed in on Twitter, writing, “the hater (Barkley) need to stop drinking at work.” Two weeks earlier, the New York Daily News had an item that claimed “a source” close to Oakley said that Oakley wanted to settle the score between the two big men, and that, “Our insider says Oakley proposed that he and Sir Charles could meet in the arena of Barkley’s choosing.”

“When people allow who they were to get in the way who they’re trying to be today … it’s about growth,’’ said James, who retired in 2014 after 13 NBA seasons including a title with the Pistons. “So why not try to figure out a new way — not feel like you’re losing your manhood — that you’re gaining? That’s the hardest thing for him,’’ James added. “You lived as a bully your whole life. At some point, even the bully has to realize bullying isn’t really that cool.”
3 years ago via ESPN

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green said New York Knicks owner James Dolan operates with a “slave master mentality” by taking issue with Charles Oakley’s criticisms after the organization benefited from his contributions as a player. “You doing it for me, it’s all good,” Green said on his “Dray Day” podcast on Uninterrupted. “You doing it against me — you speaking out against my organization — it’s not good anymore? That’s a slave mentality. A slave master mentality. That’s ridiculous. “It was all fine and dandy when he was laying people out, taking fines and all this stuff for your organization. But now, all of a sudden, when he says something that he feels, it’s a problem.”

On an episode of his “Dray Day” podcast with Uninterrupted, Green sounded off about Dolan’s treatment of Oakley. The outspoken Warriors forward said Dolan had a “slave master mentality” with the situation. Green had an issue with how Dolan was fine with Oakley’s confrontational personality when it helped the Knicks, but not when he spoke out against the organization. “You doing it for me, it’s all good,” Draymond Green said. “You doing it against me…you speaking out against my organization, it’s not good anymore? That’s a slave mentality. A slave master mentality. That’s ridiculous. It was all fine and dandy when he was laying people out, taking fines and all this stuff for your organization. But now all of a sudden when he says something that he feels, it’s a problem.”
3 years ago via ESPN

Later on The Dan Le Batard Show on ESPN, Oakley was asked whether he would attend Madison Square Garden as Dolan’s guest. “Right now, no,” he said. “I told him yesterday.” “I have never asked for nothing,” Oakley added. “I love the fans in New York. They’ve been supportive. One of the things I told the commissioner, I want to have a press conference and I want him to apologize to me and the fans. They’ve had my back and they’ve felt the pain. I really appreciate the people all around who’ve had my back.”

The team’s president hasn’t spoken formally to the local media since September — and, yes, this is a first, me taking the side of the local media in New York. Insinuating a substance or mental health problem is at the root of Oakley’s behavior toward Dolan is the height of character assassination. “The great organizations have great ownership, great management teams — they might not get along, but know how to argue — and put out a good product. The Knicks have none of those things,” one of the smartest sports execs I know said Friday. Someone needs to step in and get Dolan and Oakley in a room and reach some kind of peace. What say you, Commissioner Adam Silver?
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July 7, 2020 | 9:37 pm EDT Update

July 7, 2020 | 8:13 pm EDT Update
The Los Angeles Lakers plan to reward guard Avery Bradley, who opted out of the NBA’s restart, with a championship ring this season if the franchise is able to capture its 17th NBA title. “Yes, [Lakers general manager] Rob Pelinka made me aware of the Lakers offering me a ring if they win the championship,” Bradley told Yahoo Sports via phone Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a very kind gesture on their part.”
Alex English is certainly not one to tip-toe around tough topics. Since retiring from the NBA as an 8-time All Star in 1991, he has stood up for his legacy with the Denver Nuggets and for players as a crucial member of the NBA Players Association. He has now turned his attention to fighting for WNBA equality as a member of the WNBA PA Board of Advocates. “I want to see them get the respect they deserve,” explained English, the NBA’s leading scorer for the 1980s. “I know that there’s always gonna be those naysayers that say ‘well you know, they don’t make the kind of money in advertising and TV rights as the NBA Guys do.’ Yeah, but that took decades of the NBA to get to that level and the WNBA has done a great job with the PA of building that same type of support.”
English has gravitated towards the women’s game more in recent years because of how pure the basketball is. “The purity of the game and the quality of the game is what drew me to [the WNBA]. In some instances, their game is even more pure to me than what you see from the men,” said the 8-time NBA All-Star. “[WNBA players] have picked up on the technical part of the game that the NBA used to have. And, now as the game has progressed, you see a lot of guys that aren’t as true to form or true to techniques as the women are.”
The WNBA’s plan is largely unknown, but we do know that it will be very different from the NBA’s. Players will earn their full salaries and some will be able to bring family or caretakers with them. But, they will also have to share rooms, travel off-site for games, and have only some meals provided. English believes the inequality in player experience is simply illogical. “You’re asking the same thing from [WNBA players as you are from NBA players]: to risk their lives to give you a product that’s going to be that you sell on TV and radio and merchandise,” said English. “You are asking the same thing from the two then why not treat them the same?”
July 7, 2020 | 7:28 pm EDT Update
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – we’re planning on life without Jonathan,’’ Jeff Weltman said. “Jonathan is with the team because it benefits him to be with the team and he wants to be with the team. The same could be said with (Aminu), but Jonathan is at a different stage of his rehab and most of the work that he needs to get done it would benefit him to be around our performance staff. Obviously, he’s at the stage where he can do a little light court stuff. Beyond that, we want to keep him attached to the team and he wants to support his teammates, but I wouldn’t read anything into that.’’
Weltman believes that the strong collective character of the Magic’s roster will help the squad battle through any potential adversity that could come in the days, weeks and months ahead. “We’re always talking about it a lot and I always say it – we’re not just betting on the player; we’re betting on the person and I believe in our guys,’’ Weltman said via a Zoom call from the Disney campus on Tuesday afternoon. “I believe that we have high-character group of players and that spreads down to all of our coaches, our performance staff and all of our support staff. (The players) have worked hard, they’ve stayed together, they’ve communicated, and they’ve remained optimistic at points where there was more uncertainty. As the plans have come into clearer focus, they’ve united, and there’s a feeling of togetherness and comradery.’’
Weltman said he has no concerns about the status of Fultz, who has evolved into one of the true feel-good stories of the season with his triumphant return from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome this season. In 64 games with the Magic (59 starts), Fultz has averaged 12.1 points, 5.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals while shooting 47.3 percent from the floor. Said Weltman: “I don’t have a timeline (on Fultz’s return), but as I said Markelle just has some personal matters that he is handling. He’s on top of everything and hopefully he’ll be out here (at Disney) shortly. He’s looking very much forward to joining up with his team once he handles his business.’’
Prince’s ability to recover and reach optimum playing shape became a more difficult proposition given the time he would be losing with protocols needed to return to the floor in Orlando. The ramp-up in practice time needed once he had satisfied testing protocols on negative tests, traveled separately to Florida, quarantined for several days and only then resumed workouts made his participation even prohibitive for a July 30 tip-off on a roster already decimated with injuries.
July 7, 2020 | 6:52 pm EDT Update
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Storyline: Orlando Bubble
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“That’s what being an athlete and being on one of the biggest stages is all about: expressing yourself,” Hardaway said. “I’m happy that we’re going to be able to so that as a team. I’m pretty sure we’ll talk about that as the days go on, but for now, I’m happy that we’re going to start the season around this time. We want to make sure we use that platform to get our voices heard.”
Storyline: Orlando Bubble
July 7, 2020 | 6:29 pm EDT Update
The Thunder, with CAA Sports, has created the Thunder Fellows Program, a nonprofit organization designed to unlock opportunities in sports, technology and entertainment for Black students in the Tulsa area, the team announced Tuesday. The program, guided by the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, will be comprised of two groups of students: Fellows, Black students from regional colleges and universities, and Young Leaders, Black students in the Tulsa area from grades 8 to 12.
The Thunder Fellows Program will be located in Tulsa’s Greenwood District, the site of the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921 when white mobs killed hundreds of Black people and destroyed homes and businesses in what was known as Black Wall Street. “Our organization is deeply committed to social justice and the actions that are necessary to create better opportunities for the Black community, now and in the future,” Thunder chairman Clay Bennett said in release. “We will work tirelessly to make this a program that will create change for generations to come.”
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Storyline: Bryant-Shaq Dynamic
July 7, 2020 | 6:16 pm EDT Update
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Storyline: Orlando Bubble
The stakes were high, Siva said, just like they’ll be high when NBA players return to the court later this month. But a successful restart, he added, can send a message to the world. “This is a chance to show that basketball can survive through this time — whether that’s with spectators or not,” he told The Courier Journal last Thursday, the day after his plane landed back in the U.S.
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July 7, 2020 | 6:02 pm EDT Update
It was mildly surprising to hear second-year guard Shake Milton take the strongest stance when it came to the NBA’s decision to resume the season. “I don’t really think we should be playing,” Milton said in a video conference call with reporters Tuesday, “but I think the NBA is doing all that they can to make the environment as safe as possible. My teammates want to play so we’re going to go down there and try to win.”
Storyline: Orlando Bubble
When asked why specifically he thought the league shouldn’t resume play, he provided a poignant response. “I think [the spread of the virus], and then also I feel like there’s a lot of other stuff going on,” Milton said. “There are issues going on right now in the world that are way bigger than a sport, way bigger than the game of basketball. I feel like we’re on the cusp of finally having people tune in and really try to listen and try to understand more about the things that are happening in our country. I feel like the moment is too big right now and I don’t want the game of basketball to overshadow it.”
The sports “bubbles” are also home to experimental new tech and trials of new ways of testing for COVID-19. They might also tell us more about how the virus spreads. “There’s a lot of interest in sports coming back, and they could also be a plan for how we bring back universities, colleges and school safely. It’s the same concept, with a lot of people in close proximity to each other,” says Priya Sampathkumar, an epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic who’s working on an NBA antibody study. “It’s trying it out — if we can’t keep them safe, maybe it’s not safe to open up.”
Storyline: Coronavirus
The closed-off NBA bubble is dedicated to basketball, but it’s also a makeshift COVID-19 research laboratory. The league is helping trial a saliva-based COVID-19 test, and any players who opt in will help the Yale School of Public Health validate their testing method. Players in Orlando will be tested almost every day using the typical method: having a swab shoved deep inside their nose. Players who enroll in the Yale study, though, will also give a saliva sample along with each test. The team will compare the two types of tests and check if the saliva test is as accurate as the nose and throat swab.