Charles Oakley believes he knows why the Knicks struck out this summer with star free agents.
A day after Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving decided to team up with New York's other team, the Brooklyn Nets, Oakley went on WFAN and claimed that the culture the Knicks' have created under owner James Dolan have steered players away.
"For the fans, New York is New York," the former Knicks star told co-hosts Kimberly Jones and John Jastremski. "But for the players now, it's just a different ball game. I mean, they don't want to be around a bad, toxic situation."
Howard Beck of Bleacher Report reported that Durant and Irving decided "months ago" that they would not sign with the Knicks because of how poorly the season was going for the franchise.
It is unclear what, if any, other reasons they may have had but Oakley, 55, pointed to his incident with Dolan two years ago, when he was ejected and arrested during a game at Madison Square Garden. The Garden released witness statements from a dozen employees who encountered Oakley that night and alleged that he was physically and verbally abusive. Oakley's active civil suit alleges that some statements were misrepresented by the defendants and some statements that supported Oakley's version of events were "silenced."
"I've talked to a lot of guys, and I've talked to a lot of guys representing too, and a lot of them are upset about what happened two years ago," Oakley said. "People respect me. A lot of stuff that went on wasn't right, and from the commissioner on down, nobody has tried to address it, but the players have seen it for themselves."
Oakley, who filed a lawsuit against Dolan that is still pending, was banned for a year and has not returned since. He said that the way he was treated over that ordeal still resonates with players.
"They're not trying to go to an environment where someone says something, and somebody is going to come talk to him with an axe, or someone is going to come and put handcuffs on him," he said. "They don't want that kind of environment... I just feel bad for the city of New York, the fans that give their heart and soul and sweat and tears to come to games, and they have to keep going through this."
The current Knicks regime -- with GM Scott Perry and head coach David Fizdale under president Steve Mills (who was the GM during the Oakley incident) -- has tried to distance itself from the off-court drama that plagued the franchise in recent years.
Aside from Joakim Noah's run-in with then-head coach Jeff Hornacek at a practice and the drama surrounding the club's relationship with Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks have largely avoided off-court drama under the current regime.
But, Oakley said, incidents of the past still resonate with current players.
Regarding on-the-court matters, the Knicks struck out on their top targets in free agency but pivoted well to sign a mix of veterans and young players to add to their returning core of young talent.