NBA stars present and past have weighed in since Wednesday night about the incident at Madison Square Garden that led to the ejection and arrest of former Knick Charles Oakley — most of them siding with Oakley.
But few resonated as loudly on social media as TNT’s Reggie Miller, who as a Pacer was the bête noire of Oakley’s 1990s Knicks.
Miller tweeted twice Thursday about the incident, including a post to his 788,000 followers that as of Friday had led to 375 responses, more than 4,400 retweets and more than 7,800 likes.
Referring to Oakley’s relationship with owner James Dolan and team president Phil Jackson’s relationship with Carmelo Anthony, Miller wrote:
“If you’re a FA to be, why would you play for an Owner who treats the past greats like this or a President who stabs star player in the back?”
Friday, Miller spoke to Newsday about Oakley in particular and the Knicks in general, beginning with five minutes uninterrupted by a question and building toward a late rant in which he called Jackson “Twitter Fingers.”
Mostly, he lamented the scene that unfolded around an iconic Knick.
“Look, I’ve known Oak for over 25 years, and I really feel the way they are trying to portray him, meaning the Knicks — Dolan, the organization, whoever you want to label that as — it’s really a mischaracterization of who he really is,” Miller said, speaking before Dolan appeared on ESPN Radio’s “The Michael Kay Show” to discuss the matter.
Miller said he figured the truth was somewhere between the Knicks’ account and that of Oakley, whom Miller said he believed might have been there to extend “an olive branch.”
Dolan told Kay that Oakley was being verbally abusive and confrontational from the time he entered the Garden, based on employees’ accounts.
Miller did say, “Absolutely, under no circumstances should Oak have reacted by putting your hands on security guards or law enforcement — 100 percent in the wrong there.”
Regardless, it led to an ugly scene.
“It’s unfortunate because that will be the last image for most New Yorkers,” Miller said. “Instead of him diving on the floor for loose balls or diving in the stands and sacrificing his body, he’s getting body-slammed by eight off-duty police officers in a place that he called home for 10 years.
“You ask me why I would have this type of reaction? It would be like the Simon family [that owns the Pacers] — who I feel like I’m a part of their family — told me that the Davis boys [former Pacers Antonio and Dale] are no longer welcome at the Field House. I would absolutely go bezonkers. And I think that’s what most New Yorkers feel seeing that lasting image of Oak being dragged out of Madison Square Garden.
“I think that’s why my tweet, as you said, is resonating with New Yorkers. They probably feel the same way, because no one should [have that happen] — especially a guy like Charles Oakley. That’s what New York is made of, hard workers, a guy that sacrificed, did the little things.”
Miller said that the Oakley that reacted aggressively was “the same Oak that you guys loved for 10 years . . . That’s why New Yorkers loved him, because he never backed down from anyone.
“So I don’t want people on the flip side to say, ‘Oh, my God, how could he do that to the security guards?’ You loved it when he was doing it on the court!”
Dolan acknowledged in the ESPN Radio interview that the Garden could have handled the situation better, saying: “We weren’t perfect here, and I think Charles should have never made it to his seat. And that’s on us..”
Regarding the potential effect on future free agents of the current turmoil around the team, Miller said: “If I am a top-tier free agent . . . am I really going to think about, wait, hold on, they did this to Carmelo Anthony, and this is a guy that wanted the New York spotlight. He wanted the New York spotlight. He’s like Derek Jeter. He’s not going to be swallowed by the lights. This is a guy who wanted this pressure, and they’re doing this to him? Well, what the hell they going to do with me coming in there if I don’t perform up to expectations?”
Kay asked Dolan about the free-agent impact and Dolan noted that though it is understandable players and former players generally support one another, the vast majority of former Knicks have positive relationships with the organization.
Miller suggested the Knicks’ struggles of the past 15 or so years are karmic payback for their trade of Patrick Ewing to the SuperSonics in 2000.
“I had a lot of problems with all of them,” Miller said of the Knicks of the 1990s. “I’m probably cool with Oak and Patrick just because I’ve known them longer, but I respect the hell out of all of them. That’s why it saddens me to see, and why I think they will forever be cursed because of that one move.
“I know maybe they were looking at the long term. But that’s like Larry Bird being traded. That’s like Magic Johnson being traded. Patrick Ewing never should have been traded.”
Later in the interview, in the middle of answering a question on another topic, Miller saw a report on the internet that the Knicks had fired their head of security.
“Are you kidding me!” he said. “Don’t try to save face now!”
Miller said the Knicks should have focused more on whoever authored the statement Wednesday night in which the team expressed hope that Oakley would get “some help.”
Dolan reiterated to Kay that the Knicks believe Oakley might need professional help. But he acknowledged that though the statement during Wednesday night’s game was an attempt to “be kind, it obviously didn’t come off that way.”
Said Miller, “That’s why a lot of players and New Yorkers are upset, with Dolan and the Knicks organization. Don’t try to portray this man as if he has a substance abuse problem or a mental health problem. Don’t degrade this man like that.”
Miller then turned his attention to Jackson, saying: “Where was ‘Twitter Fingers’ when Derrick Rose went AWOL for a whole game and no one was making a comment? But Charles Oakley, five minutes after he’s handcuffed, thrown to the floor and pushed out of the Garden, you’re going to come out with that statement?”
Referring to Jackson’s latest cryptic, Melo-related tweet Thursday night, Miller said: “What kind of damn tweet was that last night, the peace sign, if it was ‘misunderstood.’ You know exactly what you were saying . . . C’mon, Phil, you’re better than that. You’ve done that your whole career. Now you’re going to be misunderstood?”
Miller encouraged Jackson to be more open and available to reporters.
When informed Jackson has not spoken to local journalists in months, Miller said: “How can that be? . . . Now you know why New Yorkers are frustrated, and they deserve better. Oak deserved better.”