James Dolan

Coronavirus Notes: Paul, Dolan, Arenas, China

Chris Paul, president of the National Basketball Players Association, admitted to reporters in a teleconference today that nobody can be certain what’s going to happen with the current season, writes Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman (link via USA Today).

“This is a situation where no one knows,” Paul said. “The virus is actually in complete control. I seriously tried to answer things the best I could, but there are things where, it’s not like I’ve got the answers and I’m just not telling you.”

Today marks six weeks since the last NBA game was played, and the league was supposed to be conducting the first round of its playoffs. If the season does resume, Paul estimates players will have to train for two to four weeks to get ready. He expressed confidence that the league will give them the time they need.

“Whatever the amount of time is, just know that players will have the input because we’re the ones playing,” Paul said. “We don’t ever want to put guys in a  situation where their injury risk is higher.”

There’s more coronavirus-related news to pass along:

  • Knicks owner James Dolan has fully recovered from the virus and has registered to donate plasma antibodies to help with research, according to Larry Brooks of The New York Post. Dolan recently tested negative and is reportedly in good health. He had only mild symptoms and continued to work while quarantined.
  • A professor at MIT tells Michele Steele of ESPN that arenas can eventually be made as safe as public parks. Alex Pentland, head of the human dynamic lab, recommends having fans wear masks and filling only half the available seats, although family members could sit together. He also advises making all aisles one way and having fans in each section enter from a specified gate.
  • Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times talked to several American players about their experiences with the Chinese Basketball Association. Kyle Fogg said when he returned to China, he had his temperature taken several times by workers in hazmat suits. He and Ray McCallum Jr. were both quarantined to hotel rooms with armed guards posted outside to ensure they didn’t leave. “Everybody back home, they’re like, ‘Oh, we’re quarantined,’” McCallum said. “But I see on the news they’re outside. No.” The CBA remains on hold with hopes of starting play again in July.

Atlantic Notes: Dolan, Oakley, Knox, Sixers, Celtics

Although they were ordered earlier this month to personally participate in a March 31 conference call to media their long-running dispute, Knicks owner James Dolan and former NBA big man Charles Oakley will no longer be required to do so, as Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News details. Instead, their lawyers will take part in the call. According to Bondy, there was a sense that a conference call might not be conducive to mediation between Dolan and Oakley themselves.

Oakley sued Dolan after the Knicks owner had him arrested and banned from Madison Square Garden in 2017. While Tuesday’s call could offer some form of resolution, a face-to-face meeting may be necessary for Dolan and Oakley to truly bury the hatchet. And, as Bondy notes, it’s not clear when that sort of meeting might be viable, given the social-distancing measures enacted in New York, not to mention Dolan’s positive coronavirus test.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Former Knicks head coach David Fizdale and interim replacement Mike Miller both felt that second-year forward Kevin Knox had a tendency to play “soft,” a league source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post. The Knicks have been impressed by Knox’s effort level and the strides he made on the defensive end, but Berman hears from a source that Miller, who was still tasked with winning games following the trade deadline, didn’t feel as if giving Knox heavy minutes was the best way to achieve that goal.
  • In an interesting piece for The Athletic, Derek Bodner takes a look at how things might have been different for the Sixers if they hadn’t traded up to select Markelle Fultz in the 2017 draft. Bodner refers to the decision as “the turning point of when the Sixers’ team-building became complicated.”
  • Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald takes a look at what the Celtics got out of each player on their roster in 2019/20 and what the team might have expected from those players if the season hadn’t been postponed.
  • In case you missed it, we rounded up a few Nets-related rumors and notes earlier this afternoon.

Knicks Notes: Harkless, Dolan, Gibson, Gallinari

The Knicks acquired Maurice Harkless because his contract was needed to complete the deal that sent Marcus Morris to the Clippers, but his performance since the trade has made him a strong candidate to return next season, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.

Harkless started eight of the 12 games he has played since coming to New York and has impressed the team with his strong defensive play and his desire to be a Knick. New team president Leon Rose had been hoping to closely evaluate Harkless over the final 16 games of the season, but the league’s hiatus may eliminate that opportunity.

“It was a chance for him to showcase to the Knicks and to see if he wanted to be here,’’ a source told Berman. “He always wanted to be a Knick.’’

Harkless is in the final season of a four-year, $40MM contract. Berman expects him to get more than the minimum in free agency.

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • Owner James Dolan was exhibiting some mild symptoms before being tested for coronavirus, Berman tweets. Dolan was courtside for a March 8 game against the Pistons, who had one of the first players to test positive for the virus in Christian Wood. No Knicks players were tested before returning to their homes because they were all asymptomatic.
  • The best chance for Taj Gibson to return to the Knicks is for Tom Thibodeau to become the next head coach, Berman notes in a separate story. Gibson is a favorite of Thibodeau, who has coached him with the Bulls and Timberwolves, but his $9.5MM salary may be more than the organization wants to spend on a backup big man. Gibson has a $1MM guarantee if he is released. “Taj was solid on the court, but he was even better in the locker room,’’ a source said. “He helped (Mitchell Robinson) understand the pro game and how to carry yourself if you want to play in the NBA and have an impact.’’
  • Jonathan Macri of Sports Illustrated lays out an ideal scenario for the Knicks’ offseason, which involves trading Julius Randle, moving on from Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr., drafting a point guard, trading veterans for draft picks and hiring Kenny Atkinson as head coach. As a bonus, Macri suggests signing former Knick Danilo Gallinari in free agency, speculating that a two-year guaranteed offer might be enough.

James Dolan Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Knicks owner James Dolan has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a tweet from the team. Dolan is “experiencing little to no symptoms” of the virus, the statement adds. He is in self-isolation and continues to oversee business operations of the Madison Square Garden Company.

A source tells Marc Berman of the New York Post that Dolan is with his family in the Hamptons and learned of his test results earlier this week.

Ten NBA players have tested positive for the coronavirus over the past 17 days, but Dolan is the first high-level executive known to have contracted it. The Knicks have avoided public comment on the virus since it began affecting the league, but their players have likely not been tested and have been permitted to return to their homes, according to Steve Popper of Newsday (Twitter link).

Dolan, 64, has been a controversial figure in New York as the Knicks have fallen on hard times under his ownership. His image has also been damaged by public disputes with beloved figures in the Garden such as Charles Oakley and Spike Lee.

The news about Dolan comes a day after Madison Square Garden set up a relief fund that will offer financial assistance to employees and will provide them with a salary through at least May 3. The MSG Relief Fund was announced in a letter sent to employees Friday night, writes Larry Brooks of The New York Post.

The fund was created with a $1MM donation from the Madison Square Garden Company and a matching donation from the Dolan Family Foundation. The MSG management team put in another $300K and contributions are expected from the Knicks and the NHL’s Rangers.

“I knew they’d do the right thing and they did,” said union president James Claffey. “It’s a very generous offer. It wasn’t negotiated. They just gave it, here’s what they wanted to do for our stage crews and other entertainment workers. We didn’t request it. And they’re taking care equally well of the other unions.”

Knicks Notes: Ellington, Rose, Miller

Following the trade deadline in February, there were multiple teams that would have had interest in Wayne Ellington if he and the Knicks had reached a buyout agreement, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. A source tells Berman that general manager Scott Perry and Ellington’s agent Mark Bartelstein had several conversations about the possibility, but ultimately elected not to move forward.

As Berman explains, Perry wanted Ellington around the Knicks’ young players because he felt as if the veteran guard was a positive influence, and the 32-year-old was happy to take on that mentor role.

Although Ellington is now on track to finish the season with the Knicks – whenever the season may end – he may end up moving on to a new NBA home for 2020/21. New York is unlikely to guarantee his $8MM salary, Berman notes.

“He might be back to a minimum-salary player next season,” an NBA personnel person told Berman. “I think maybe he’s a lost a step and he was never too athletic to begin with. He’ll hang around a couple more years because of his shooting profile.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Although new Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose was on the job for less than two weeks before the NBA suspended its season, he came away with “a positive feeling” about interim head coach Mike Miller, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Sources tell Begley that Rose was impressed by the way Miller handled the team and respected the job he’d done since taking over for David Fizdale.
  • Rose is still expected to conduct his own head coaching search after the season, but some “prominent people at Madison Square Garden” would like to see Miller remain with the organization in some capacity, sources tell Begley.
  • Appearing this week on ESPN Radio, former Knicks great Patrick Ewing addressed the feud between his former teammate Charles Oakley and Knicks owner James Dolan, as Scott Thompson of SNY.tv details. “Whatever is going on with (Oakley) and Mr. Dolan, like I’ve said before, it’s something that needs to stop,” Ewing said. “He’s one of the best players that I’ve played with. He’s a part of the Knicks’ history. He and Mr. Dolan need to get in a room somewhere and figure that out.” The two sides have been ordered by a federal appeals court to mediate their dispute.
  • In case you missed them, we’ve published stories this week on Damyean Dotson, Reggie Bullock, and more Knicks-related subjects. Check out their team page right here.

And-Ones: Oakley, Perkins, EuroLeague, Expansion Draft

Knicks owner James Dolan and former player Charles Oakley have been ordered to mediate their dispute by a federal appeals court, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. A conference call has been scheduled for March 31, requiring that Dolan and Oakley to attend with their attorneys. The order, which was uncovered by sports legal analyst Daniel Wallach, is the latest development in Oakley’s civil lawsuit. Oakley sued Dolan for defamation, assault and false imprisonment after he was arrested and banned from Madison Square Garden in 2017.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA center and ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins has been ordered by his physician to lose weight or risk becoming diabetic, he tweets. Perkins said he’s gained 75 pounds since retiring two seasons ago. Perkins appeared in one game with Cleveland in 2017/18 season, his lone NBA outing since a 37-game stint with New Orleans in the 2015/16 season.
  • Former Wizards forward Chris Singleton said the EuroLeague should use a March Madness-style format to complete its season, Sportando’s Nicola Lupo relays. Singleton suggested splitting the 18 teams into two groups with a host city for each group. The No. 8 and 9 seeds in each group would play an extra game. A third city would then host the EuroLeague Final Four. Singleton plays for Anadolu Efes in Turkey.
  • How would an expansion draft look? NBC Sports conducted a mock expansion draft for mythical Seattle SuperSonics and Flint Tropics franchises. See which players Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman selected for their teams here.

Knicks Notes: Coronavirus Threat, Dolan, Van Gundy

The positive test by Detroit’s Christian Wood adds to fears that the Knicks may have been exposed to coronavirus, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. New York hosted the Pistons last Sunday, with Wood playing 33 minutes. That came the night after Detroit faced the Jazz, who have both Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell with confirmed cases of the virus.

The Knicks also had a game against Utah on March 4, but a source tells Berman there’s only a 1% chance that Gobert and Mitchell were infected at that point.

The NBA advised the Knicks’ traveling party to self-quarantine Thursday night when they returned from their game in Atlanta. No one was exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, but nobody had been tested as of Friday morning, Berman adds. However, that could change in light of the news about Wood.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • The BIG3 has taken a swipe at owner James Dolan in an ad promoting its upcoming stop in New York, Berman relays in a separate story. It features a picture of Spike Lee, who was involved in recent dispute with Dolan, and states, “Players are not property. The fans are our guests.” BIG3 organizers and Madison Square Garden officials both declined to comment on the ad.
  • Former Knick Charles Oakley tells Berman in another piece that he doesn’t believe an old-school coach like Jeff Van Gundy can succeed in today’s game. Van Gundy has frequently been mentioned as a candidate in the organization’s upcoming coaching search. “Basketball has changed. You’re not getting the 1990s back,” Oakley said. “The game has a totally different atmosphere. You got to build a team with leadership and players willing to sacrifice. These kids don’t care about basketball. All they care about is getting the check, playing video games and the social media.”
  • Steve Popper of Newsday looks back at a chaotic partial season that included a coaching change and a new president of basketball operations, but provided little information about the Knicks’ direction for the future. Of the seven free agents who came to New York last summer, Marcus Morris made the biggest difference and he has already been traded. Among the young players, Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina both saw reduced minutes, while Damyean Dotson and Allonzo Trier were often out of the rotation.

Knicks Notes: Oakley, Lee, Rose, Harkless

Charles Oakley offered his opinion on the Knickscontroversy involving Spike Lee during a radio interview this morning, relays Steve Popper of Newsday. Appearing on ESPN’s “Golic and Wingo,” Oakley said the dispute stems from an organizational philosophy set by owner James Dolan.

“When you see a business like this year after year … having problems off the court, trying to get people to come to games and they’re not coming because it’s a toxic situation, because it’s so much control going on … egos,” Oakley stated. “These people who run a team, sometimes owners sit back and watch; this guy wants to be the CEO, the head of operations, he wants to be in control. It shouldn’t be run like that. It should be run by a group of people, not a control freak.”

Oakley also suggested that these incidents alienate players who might think about joining the team. New York had an embarrassing experience last summer when it failed to land any top talent despite having enough cap room for two max offers.

“Even Dwyane Wade said, they treat you like that, how you think they’re going to treat us?” Oakley added. “… The thing that kills the team, kills their hope for the future, you get a new president [Leon Rose] and don’t get to introduce him to the press, to the people because of this. It just wiped the whole thing out. You did something positive and you’re right back at ground zero.”

There’s more tonight from New York:

  • Rose took a low-key approach to his first day as president of basketball operations, writes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Rose didn’t hold a press conference or talk to any media. He met with players and staff and promised to build relationships. “We’ve been through a lot of up and down this year — coaching changes, president changes, a lot of family tragedies — but he really wants to stick with us,” Kevin Knox said. “He’s going to make sure we get better, the team gets better. As a player, that’s what you want to hear.”
  • Warriors general manager Bob Myers tells Marc Berman of The New York Post that Rose’s background as a successful agent will help him succeed as an executive. Myers was the pioneer for that transition, leaving Arn Tellem’s agency in 2012 to take over Golden State.
  • Maurice Harkless has made an impression on the coaching staff since being acquired from the Clippers at the trade deadline, observes Ian Begley of SNY.tv. “People use the term versatility a lot but when I watch the games, and then I go back and I watch in on video again, I see more things that he did that maybe I didn’t even notice,” interim coach Mike Miller said.

Knicks Exchange Barbs With Super-Fan Spike Lee

The best win of the Knicks‘ season is being overshadowed by a very public disagreement with one of the team’s most famous fans.

During Monday’s contest, a dramatic 125-123 upset of the Rockets, video surfaced of film director and Knicks super-fan Spike Lee arguing with Madison Square Garden security about which entrance he was permitted to use. Appearing this morning on ESPN’s First Take, Lee said he has used the same entrance for decades and hadn’t been informed of any policy change.

Lee referred to the Knicks’ claim that he has been previously told not to use the employee entrance as “spin” and said he’s being “harassed” by team owner James Dolan. The longtime Knicks fan added that he doesn’t plan to attend any more games at MSG this season.

“I’m coming back next year, but I’m done for the season,” Lee said. “I’m done.”

Not content to take the high road and avoid a potential PR disaster, the Knicks shot back early this afternoon, issuing a statement criticizing Lee.

“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 Knicks’ statement reads. “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 of general entrance; just not through our employee entrance, which is what he and Jim (Dolan) agreed to last night when they shook hands.”

Accompanying their tweeted statement, the Knicks attached photos of the building’s employee entrance and of Lee’s handshake with Dolan.

Even if the Knicks are telling the truth here – Lee has claimed again that they’re not – it’s a bad look for the organization, which went through a similar PR nightmare with Charles Oakley three years ago. With Leon Rose taking over as the team’s new basketball president of basketball operations on Monday and Steve Stoute looking to rebrand the franchise and resolve old feuds, the Knicks should be looking to move beyond the petty, drama-filled subplots that have dominated headlines in recent years.

It seems unlikely that most NBA players will take the Knicks’ side in their conflict with Lee. While the incident won’t necessarily be a deal-breaker if a star player is considering signing in New York, it’s another factor that could negatively impact the team’s free agent recruiting efforts going forward. New York is already facing an uphill battle on that front, despite its strong market and cap flexibility.

Ballmer In Advanced Talks To Buy Forum In Inglewood

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is in advanced negotiations to purchase The Forum in Inglewood, California from its current owner, the Madison Square Garden Company, sources tell ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz.

The Forum, the former home of the Lakers and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, is no longer the home arena for any professional sports teams, but continues to host major sporting events and concerts. With the Clippers looking to open a brand-new arena of their own in Inglewood once their current agreement with the Staples Center expires, the presence of The Forum has represented a major roadblock.

Ballmer wants to build the Clippers’ new arena on a parcel of land that sits approximately a mile from the Forum, as Arnovitz notes. The Clippers owner and the city of Inglewood have been engaged in a lengthy legal battle with James Dolan‘s MSG Co. for the last year or two. MSG has taken exception to the city working with the Clippers to develop a new, nearby arena that would be a major competitor for The Forum.

Sources tell ESPN that the two sides began to engage in negotiations about a sale of The Forum following the most recent round of lawsuits by MSG and community groups bankrolled in part by MSG. Arnovitz suggests that a sale looks like the “path of least resistance” when it comes to finding a resolution to the stalemate.

If it’s sold, The Forum would continue to operate until the Clippers’ new arena is ready to open, and perhaps even beyond that, per ESPN. Although sources tell Arnovitz that an agreement is “imminent,” the Clippers wouldn’t confirm or deny the report.

“The Clippers continue to pursue plans to build a state-of-the-art, 18,000-seat basketball arena and entertainment complex in Inglewood and are currently working with the city to successfully complete the comprehensive Environmental Impact Report,” the team said in a statement. “We are examining every possible way to resolve our differences with Madison Square Garden Co. regarding our new arena.”