NEW YORK (AP) — Jeff Hornacek was told to expect days like this in New York.
Although with the Knicks, dysfunction often lasts entire seasons.
Things have rarely been weirder than Wednesday, when Charles Oakley was arrested during a Madison Square Garden main event card pitting team president versus star player, and beloved former player versus loathed team owner.
Once the fighting was done, there was yet another loss on the basketball court.
Most Read Nation & World Stories
- Hundreds of experts say coronavirus is airborne; consequences for our daily lives would be significant
- South Dakota governor, exposed to virus, joined Trump on jet
- CDC's list of symptoms for COVID-19 grows
- Militias flock to Gettysburg to foil supposed flag burning
- How Fauci, 5 other health specialists deal with COVID-19 risks in their everyday lives
The Knicks fell to 22-32 after a 119-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, but the game result was at best the third story behind Oakley’s altercation and ejection, and the latest turn in the Phil Jackson-Carmelo Anthony saga.
Hornacek, in his first season as Knicks coach, insists he was actually prepared for all this.
“I kind of, not was warned, but it was expected that there was going to be something all the time, and it’s lived up to the billing,” he said before the game. “There’s been something all year. So OK, let’s go play a game, try to win.”
Then, as usual, don’t.
They often did when Oakley played in New York from 1988-98, making him adored by fans — some of whom were chanting “Oakley! Oakley!” as security forcefully removed the rugged power forward from his seat and into New York Police Department custody.
He had been sitting a few rows behind James Dolan and shouting at the MSG chairman when security was summoned. Oakley shoved one security guard in the face and appeared to push another as players from both teams, along with tennis great John McEnroe sitting nearby, watched while Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis was preparing to shoot free throws.
“He’s the best teammate in the world. He really is,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Oakley, his teammate in New York. “Honestly, the players could see, that was a tough thing to watch. I’ve been in the league a long time and I’ve never seen a thing like that.”
The Knicks have fallen from playoff contention by losing 19 of their last 25 games after a good start to what was thought could finally be their first playoff season under Jackson. He brought in veterans Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings, and with that not looking good enough, may be trying to ship out Anthony.
Jackson seemed to take another dig at Anthony on Tuesday with a tweet referencing a column by Bleacher Report writer Kevin Ding that suggested Jackson is frustrated because Anthony doesn’t have the same will to win as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, two of Jackson’s greatest players when he coached.
Anthony has grown tired of the drama with Jackson and largely shrugged off questions about him after the game, while refusing to say he still trusted his boss.
“I told you once, I’ll tell you again. I’m in that building every day. Until something is said to me directly, then I’m not going to feed into it,” Anthony said.
Jackson hasn’t spoken to the New York media since September, refusing to confirm or deny any of the trade reports involving Anthony. He’s apparently not talking to Anthony, either, though the 32-year-old forward said he’s finished seeking answers.
“I told you, I’m done asking why,” he said.
Anthony has a no-trade clause and can reject any trade Jackson attempts to make. He wants to remain in New York, even though he could surely find more wins and much more normalcy elsewhere.
He has had four coaches and a constant carousel of teammates since Jackson arrived three years ago, coming off the Knicks’ only period of success in the last 15 years. They made the playoffs from 2011-13 after not making it previously since 2004 and becoming an NBA laughingstock along the way during the Isiah Thomas era at MSG.
They’re right back there now, moving from one controversy to the next. There was Rose’s unexcused absence from a game, when he returned to Chicago without telling the team, to the repeated questions Hornacek faces about if he’ll bench Noah, who got a $72 million contract from Jackson even though his game appears in decline.
Anthony’s future will probably be the hot topic until the Feb. 23 trade deadline. Eventually, the talk will move on to Jackson, who can opt out of his contract after this season.
The endless drama doesn’t surprise Clippers guard and former Knick Jamal Crawford. He’s played in the NBA’s three biggest markets, but says Los Angeles and Chicago don’t compare to the circus running annually in the Big Apple.
“Honestly I’m not, because of the standpoint that it’s New York,” he said. “It’s there before I got there, it’s been there. I’d be surprised if it was quiet. This is New York.”