NEW ORLEANS — NBA commissioner Adam Silver is “disheartened” that the meeting he brokered between Charles Oakley and Knicks owner James Dolan didn’t lead to a positive resolution, but he remains hopeful that peace can be reached.
Silver said Oakley and Dolan apologized to each other when they met Tuesday, but Oakley was “emotional” and not ready to return as a guest at Madison Square Garden.
“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,’ ” Silver said during his state of the NBA address Saturday night. “In fact, he was very emotional in the meeting and he said it was something he wanted to think about.
“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 return to Madison Square Garden. But ultimately, that’s his decision.”
Oakley was removed from his seat during a Feb. 8 game between the Knicks and Clippers, dragged by multiple Garden and team security guards from the court area and arrested. Dolan ultimately banned Oakley from the Garden for being “verbally abusive.”
After Silver intervened and got Dolan and Oakley together in a room, with Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan taking part via conference call, the ban was lifted. But Oakley has made demands in subsequent interviews.
Silver still hopes the two sides can find common ground, and he said he would step in again to play mediator if necessary.
“When I left the meeting with Charles Oakley and Jim Dolan, I did not think things were resolved,” Silver said. “I thought they were on the right track.
“They both apologized directly to each other. There was no agreement coming out of that meeting, though, that had been resolved. There was no agreement that either one was restricted from saying anything further.”
Dolan and the Knicks haven’t made any comments since. But the statement the Knicks made the night of the incident, which ended with “we hope he gets some help soon,” and subsequent comments by Dolan in an interview with ESPN Radio that alleged Oakley might be an alcoholic upset the former Knick.
In various interviews with Oakley since then, he said he was “hurt” and that he wants a public apology and an apology to the fans. Oakley also compared Dolan to former Clippers owner Donald Sterling, saying “he’s on that level.” Sterling was banned for life from the league and forced to sell the team in 2014 after the revelation of his past racist comments.
In addition, Oakley said, “it might be three, four, five years” before he feels comfortable going back to the Garden.
“While I’m disheartened that, at least based on media accounts, that it does not appear to be moving forward in a constructive way right now, I don’t regret that I had that meeting,” Silver said. “If there is a constructive role I can play, I’m willing to do that.
“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, and I am still hopeful that Charles will sort of come back into the family.”