• One Big Thing: The Aristocrats

    I know nothing about Public Relations.

    As a field, PR seems like a constant battle- a stroll through the never ending minefield of human stupidity. It has to be a constant state of dread, knowing that one foolish comment can unravel years of good work. Then there’s the notion of positive work coming off as forced and self-congratulatory.

    I can’t imagine all the work that goes into winning the war of public opinion, but I certainly know what losing looks like. Looking like a petulant child while opening yourself up to a defamation suit? Yeah, that’s losing.

    It’d be impractical to chronicle every single Knicks’ error in the James Dolan era. There’s simply too much to note in 17 years; an all-encompassing incompetence whose snowball effect draws in moves of all magnitudes.

    The Charles Oakley incident might be the final straw for Knicks fans, and perhaps the grandest display of stupidity that Dolan’s Knicks have to offer.

    For those who missed it, a ticket-holding Charles Oakley was ejected, arrested and later banned from Madison Square Garden after allegedly heckling James Dolan from his seat. The arrest stemmed from Oakley putting hands on a security guard and not leaving without some resistance. The part about heckling, of course, depends on who you believe- Dolan and Garden security both claim that Oakley was shouting at the team’s owner while the former Knick and some seated near him say he was approached without cause.

    This isn’t to say that Oak is blameless in the matter- putting his hands on a security official is not a good look, regardless of who instigated the whole thing.

    But still, to ban a fan favorite from the Garden, this coming after the organization has all but ignored him as a result of some critical (and deserved) comments, reeks of pettiness. The Knicks, especially Dolan, come off as thin-skinned and feeble. One of the prerequisites for involvement in pro sports, be it as a player, manager, or owner, is the ability to block out negativity and here the Knicks are turning this into a spectacle.

    To fire the head of arena security after the fact is shameful.

    To insinuate that Oakley might have an alcohol problem without any proof is a disgustingly classless move; one that sounds like good grounds for a lawsuit if Mr. Oakley were so inclined.

    It’s the latest in a long line of awful things happening in New York under Dolan’s watch.

    There’s the time he handed Larry Brown a five year, $50 million coaching contract only to fire Brown after one season. There’s the yo-yo promotions and demotions that he gave Isaiah Thomas.

    There was the predictably regrettable hiring and firing of Derek Fisher followed by the installation of retread interim coach Kurt Rambis. Rambis, passed over for the permanent gig, remains on the staff as an assistant. That sounds like a healthy situation for everyone.

    Fisher and Rambis, of course, are the direct results of Phil Jackson’s meddlesome ways. When he’s not hovering too close to the team or alienating one of its stars, Jackson can be found firing off non-sequiturs on Twitter. His insistence on running the vaunted Triangle shoehorned an imperfect roster into a system that would make the team look worse than it already was.

    Of course, Jackson was only hired as a sort of last ditch effort at respectability; a classic Knicks gambit to bring in any brand name regardless of fit or function.
    Rather than have a candid discussion with Carmelo Anthony about the need to rebuild, Jackson’s thinly-veiled jabs through the media have only strengthened the resolve to stick around. Teams so obviously close to the edge of the lottery, even at their most competitive, ought not hand out big money and no-trade clauses so freely, but this is the Knicks.

    And of course, the players. There was the foolish trade for Andrea Bargnani, a gift that finally stopped giving to Toronto with their recent selection of Jakob Poeltl. Then Dolan, afraid of being fleeced by Masai Ujiri once more, put the kibosh on a deal that would’ve sent Metta World Peace, Iman Shumpert and another pick to Toronto in exchange for Kyle Lowry.

    Dolan, managing out of fear, prevented his chosen decision makers from doing their jobs. The owner’s fear of looking stupid in the public eye cost the Knicks a shot at an All-Star caliber player.

    Good thing he was so worried about Ujiri- it let some other GMs pick off the vine before the Knicks were completely devoid of assets.

    Shumpert and JR Smith were later traded in a deal that got the Knicks Alex Kirk, Lou Amundson, Lance Thomas and a second rounder.

    Then there’s the moves of last offseason. Good deals for players like Kyle O’Quinn and Courtney Lee made it seem like maybe the team was ready to provide Kristaps Porzingis with the complementary pieces that would allow him to flourish as a revelatory big man in the modern game. Not to worry; the Knicks also gave four years and $72 million to dust-boned Joakim Noah and traded away a young point guard for the husk of Derrick Rose.

    After all those years of fruitless, pathetic star-chasing the Knicks had finally assembled their Big Three.

    Porzingis is the one good thing going for New York, and the fans didn’t even want him on draft night. It’s a mess, and it doesn’t look like it’ll get better anytime soon.

    Dolan’s treatment of former players and his insane lack of commitment to anyone other than Jackson will surely work wonders in selling people on New York. Of course, missing on your main targets and overpaying for third tier options to save face is par for the course. It’s so Dolan it hurts. Not to mention his draconian media policies.

    The thing about the famed Aristocrats joke is that the punchline is so simple; in contrast to the horrific details of the buildup it seems almost comically un-funny. At the heart of the most intricate things can be an underwhelming yet satisfying end.

    It’s exhausting to go through each of New York’s various follies and flesh out every detail; to carefully explain how each poor decision acts as a building block in Dolan’s pyramid of trash. Half-measure after half-measure never solved any of the Knicks’ core problems and yet Dolan and his decision makers of choice trudged on. What was logical one year is undone by the mistakes of the year after.

    There’s really no satisfying end to the saga. No grand scheme on underlying theme to tie the Dolan era up in a nice bow. Under his leadership, the Knicks have swirled around the toilet bowl and continue to drift aimlessly towards rock bottom, bravely defying critics who have declared them at rock bottom so many times before.

    At the end of the day, after years of buildup, the punchline is short and sweet.

    James Dolan is simply an awful owner and New York’s biggest problem.

    Sometimes you don’t need more than that.

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