A Few Thoughts with Bob Ryan

Only in the Alice In Wonderland world of Madison Square Garden (Basketball Division), could one ridiculous off-the-court issue trump — perhaps I should pick a different verb — another.
The Carmelo Anthony-Phil Jackson whatever-it-is business is ridiculous enough. But that has fallen into second place in the ranking of utterly stupid and avoidable affairs transpiring at the building they pompously refer to as “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”  Now if were any other place in sports I would say that the Charles Oakley Ejection would be filed under the category of “Hold All Calls; We Have A Winner” for the rest of 2017. But with MSG and James Dolan, you never know.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Carmelo Anthony, or his game, I should say, but he has my full sympathy right now. He shouldn’t even be in New York to begin with. He probably should still be in Denver. It’s either that, or he should be in Chicago, a team that a couple off years ago needed him to make them a legitimate championship contender. But these are large gobs of toothpaste that aren’t ever going back into the tube. The issue right now is just how long he will remain in New York, and where could he go? Of course, he’s be somewhere else right now if Phil Jackson hadn’t given him a no-trade clause, which was just another example of Jackson’s ineptness as a basketball executive. Jackson the coach would have been furious with his GM had someone done that to him.

I’m sure you know by now that Jackson communicates by Twitter, not face-to-face dialogue. He has made it perfectly clear he currently has little respect for Anthony’s game . But he never has to explain himself to a fellow human being. No, he allows things to get out one way or another and Anthony has to stand there and respond to the latest indirect pronouncement from the team’s basketball boss. It’s pure lunacy.

The Oakley thing is a farce of a higher order. The background is that Oakley, a Knicks’ mainstay for a 10-year period in which they went to the playoffs every single year, and one of the most aggressive players in NBA history, has been a public critic of Garden pooh-bah James Dolan for some time.  As a result, he is basically persona non grata at the Garden. The Knicks act as if he had never suited up for them, excluding him from various team celebrations, including a planned 70th anniversary something or other bash coming up before the end off the season. Oakley says they stopped giving him tickets years ago. But there he was at the Garden the other night for their game with the Clippers, having purchased a ticket that, it just so happens, was located in proximity to Jimmy Dolan himself. Before the first quarter had concluded, Oakley was in both a verbal and physical confrontation with a whole gang of Garden Security operatives. He was ejected and even arrested, charged with three counts of assault and criminal trespass, all misdemeanors. Yes, he was released.

So what happened? It’s a classic He Said-She Said scenario. The Knicks say Oakley was verbally abusive to Dolan. There was even an intimation that Oakley was inebriated. Oakley denies this. He says he was approached by Security for no reason other than he was there, and he was close to Dolan. Here’s my thing: there were numerous. nearby witnesses. How can there be such confusion about what Oakley said or didn’t say?

That’s Part A. Part B is that in a “normal” reaction — i.e. the reaction anywhere else but Doian’s MSG — a lone security guy approaches Oakley to inform him he had better cut it out, if indeed he was doing anything at all. There’s no need to send a small army, which is what arrived at Oakley’s seat. There was massive overreaction on both sides. Oakley is a large, physically intimidating man, even at 53, and he did get very physical. He can’t be defended on that score. But the entire incident was preposterous, and it was initiated by Doian. Of that there is no doubt.

Dolan’s Garden is a nightmare. Reporters who displease Dolan have been pursued by security in the past. The Garden is a place where, shall we say, alternative facts, have been spewed out for years. Things go on there that go on nowhere else in this hemisphere, anyway.

The Knicks are a mess, and it all starts at the top. Jimmy Dolan simply does not know what he is doing. Anyone could have told him, and, I’m sure someone probably did, that just because Phil Jackson has 11 rings as a coach is no guarantee he would make a good executive. Oh, sure, he professed his love for the Knicks and a desire to honor the memory of the sainted Red Holzman, but he was never going to roll up his sleeves and do the necessary leg work and there was great reason to think it was all a money grab. Hey, for $12 million a year, any of us would say or do anything to get the gig.
The Knicks, meanwhile, are 44 years removed from a championship and 23 years removed from their last trip to the Finals. Their clientele deserves better.

Richard Drew/Associated Press

Richard Drew/Associated Press

Has major league baseball lost its mind? Could Joe Torre possibly be serious when he suggests baseball is considering reacting to the issue of excessively long games by beginning each extra inning with the team at bat placing a man on second base?

Stop! This is madness. And it does not address the real issue, which is not the existence of too many lengthy extra inning games, which are part of the sport and always should be, but the indispensable length of far too many nine-inning games.

First of all, I’ll bet anything that the majority of extra inning games are already settled in the 10th. And if I’m wrong, so be it. I don’t want the sport to be trivialized, as is college football. Yes, put me down as loathing the college football OT for the very simple reason that it’s not real football.

Does baseball need to take a look at the length of games? Absolutely. Baseball’s pace must be improved if it is to remain viable for the 21st century generation of sports consumers, whose sensibilities are far different than that of their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers. (Also mothers, grandmothers and great-great grandmothers). There are too many idiotic pitching changes, too many needless visits to the mound by catchers and too little general interest on the part of the participants to speed things up, because they wrongly believe the only people complaining about 4-hour nine inning games are members of the media with deadlines. That is false. That is, yes, an alternative fact if ever there was one. Fans do notice and fans do care and fans have to get up in the morning and go to work.
Changing the game into an alternative fact of a game, which is what this ludicrous proposal would do, is not the answer.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan has taken a lot of you-know-what for his play calling last Sunday night. He basically defends himself by saying he simply kept calling ‘em the way he had all year, and that was that. But this was a situation in which flexibility was necessary. A championship team prepares for any contingency, and one it had better be ready for was protecting a lead. There is no argument, none. Once Julio Jones made the grab that would have been the one play we’d have talked about from that game for the next 50 years, the only proper course of action was to run, run, run and then ask a skilled veteran named Matt Bryant to kick a simple field goal to give his team an impregnable 11-point lead that would have guaranteed a Super Bowl victory. By the way, one of the most intriguing aspects of that game is the fact that Jones’ four receptions were his only four targets, and that his average yards after catch was a half-yard. Yup, he was 4-for-4, with 2 yards after the catch, total. The Patriots really did a fantastic job on him, forcing him to make two highlight grabs out of four receptions.

On the great Terrell Owens Hall of Fame controversy, put me down as a Yes. I’d be more worried about allowing people who have broken the law than a guy who just acted like a jerk.