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MSG's James Dolan on Rangers and Knicks: We won't tank

James Dolan watches during the second quarter of

James Dolan watches during the second quarter of a WNBA basketball game between the New York Liberty and the Atlanta Dream at Madison Square Garden, Friday, June 5, 2015. Credit: Jason DeCrow

LAS VEGAS — James Dolan checked out the Rangers’ practice Monday, then told reporters that he is happy with the performance of first-year coach David Quinn, satisfied with the way the team’s rebuilding project is going and adamant that neither the Rangers nor the Knicks will ever tank games in an attempt to secure a better draft pick.

Dolan — the executive chairman and CEO of the Madison Square Garden Company, which owns the Rangers, the Knicks and the MSG cable television network — sat down with the two traveling beat reporters who cover the Rangers for a state-of-the-team address. He was asked if there had been any arguments in favor of tanking the season for either the Rangers or the Knicks.

“Not in my office,’’ he said. “I mean, if you’re talking about what I hear, sure, fans are telling me, with the Knicks, they’re saying they don’t want us to win. They want us to get this kid out of Duke [Zion Williamson, the presumptive No. 1 pick in this June’s NBA Draft].

“But with the Rangers, no,’’ he said. “I think the team believes they still have an excellent shot at making the playoffs, and if they keep getting better, by the time they get to the playoffs, they’ll be a better team than they are today. And maybe they got a shot to get past the first round, or whatever. I mean, it gets them more playoff experience.

“I think teams that tank are giving away something really big,’’ he said. “I think they’re giving away that emotional development for the team . . . So none of my teams are going to tank. I’ll never tell a team to lose.’’

At the halfway mark, the Rangers (17-17-7) are nine points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. They will finish a three-game western road trip with Tuesday night’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Dolan, in town for the groundbreaking of MSG’s 18,000-seat Sphere arena, a concert and entertainment venue that he said will be finished in 2021, said he doesn’t believe in having his teams tank games because, No. 1, the team has a responsibility to produce the best product it can for the ticket-buying fans, and No. 2, because he believes losing games on purpose hurts a team’s spirit.

“And that hurts more than getting a better draft pick helps,’’ he said.

Dolan said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist represents the biggest difference in the respective rebuilding efforts of the Rangers and Knicks (10-30), who lost in Portland on Monday night.

“If the Knicks had a [player equivalent to] Henrik, they’d probably be competing for a playoff spot,’’ he said.

While Dolan acknowledged that the Rangers don’t expect to challenge for the Stanley Cup this season, he insisted that the team expects to be competitive nightly. He said he isn’t alarmed by the current three-game losing streak in which the team has been outscored 18-3 and Lundqvist has been pulled in both of his starts.

“No, it shouldn’t surprise you too much,’’ he said of the losing streak. “What it is, though, is an opportunity to learn, particularly for the kids. They’ll probably always remember this dip because it was so dramatic. Hopefully, we won’t see one again, because they learn.’’

Dolan recently gave an interview to ESPN The Magazine in which he raised the possibility of selling the Knicks or the Garden, but he said on Monday that isn’t something he is interested in doing. He said he hasn’t had any offers for any of the properties since he gave that interview.

“I said what I said in the interview because I was talking from the point of view of a public company chairman, which is the answer that I must give,’’ he said. “At the same time, we are not selling either one of the teams, and we made that abundantly clear within 24 hours of that interview being released. And since then, everybody has taken me at my word.’’

Notes & quotes: Forward Kevin Hayes did not practice, and Quinn said he will miss his third straight game Tuesday with an upper-body injury . . . Quinn also said Lundqvist, who allowed five goals on 32 shots in Sunday’s 5-0 loss to Arizona, will not start Tuesday against Vegas. Backup Alexandar Georgiev will get the start.

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