NEW ORLEANS — Adam Silver tried to heal the league’s black eye when the Knicks had team legend Charles Oakley out of Madison Square Garden and arrested, then doubled down saying he had some “issues.” Silver got Oakley and Dolan in a room together to talk, and Dolan lifted the ban on Oakley from the Garden.
It wasn’t enough.
Within a couple days Oakley was saying he wouldn’t accept an invitation to return to the Garden and comparing Dolan to Donald Sterling, the worst owner in the modern era.
Silver has no regrets and thinks them at least talking was a step in the right direction.
“When I left the meeting with Charles Oakley and Jim Dolan, I did not think things were resolved. I thought they were on the right track, Silver said at his annual All-Star press conference Saturday night. “As I said in the statement that I issued that night, I thought the meeting was important because, back to my NBA family, I do think it’s important that family members deal with each other directly, and I thought it would be helpful if Charles and Jim sat across from each other and spoke directly to each other rather than through the media or through surrogates….
“And so while I’m disheartened that, at least based on media accounts, that it is not — does not appear to be moving forward in a constructive way, right now I don’t regret that I had that meeting. And if there is a constructive role I can play going forward, I’m available to do that. Again, I didn’t compel them to meet with me. I did it because I thought it would be helpful. And frankly, in retrospect, I still think it was helpful.”
Deep wounds can take time to heal, and Oakley was undoubtedly hurt deeply by his treatment at the hands of the Knicks, not just that night but since Dolan took over the organization. Oakley has not held back criticizing Dolan’s ownership and stewardship of the Knicks — another reason he has the support of the fans in New York, many of whom feel the same way.
But the next step in healing this rift falls to Oakley.
“I’m still hopeful that Charles will sort of come back into the family,” Silver said. “Again, when Jim Dolan invited him back to Madison Square Garden, Charles did not say, wonderful, let’s take out the schedule and pick a game. In fact, he was very emotional in the meeting, and he said it was something he wanted to think about.
“And in my subsequent conversations with him, I have said, I think you should continue to think about it. And whether that’s a month from now, six months from now, or a year from now, the fan in me and someone who’s known Charles for a long time, I hope at some point he does decide to return to Madison Square Garden, but ultimately, that’s his decision.”