By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Knicks fans found ammunition to show their displeasure with the dysfunctional NBA team, as the Madison Square Garden crowd saluted the banished Charles Oakley during Friday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets.
The 53-year-old former Knicks great was hauled out of the Garden during Wednesday’s game after allegedly berating team owner James Dolan from his seat in the arena and was arrested for misdemeanor assault.
He was banned from the arena by Dolan prior to Friday’s game.
Roughly midway through the first quarter of the 131-123 loss to Denver (24-29), the Knicks’ four straight defeat, fans launched into a “We want Oakley” chant and took it up again in the second quarter.
In the second half, fans switched to simply “Charles Oakley”, who, during his 10-year tenure with the Knicks, epitomized the physical play and rugged defense that marked that team.
The Knicks (22-33) have been poor in defense all season and after the latest loss, coach Jeff Hornacek said the starters ought to be embarrassed by their effort as the Nuggets shot 56.8 percent from the field.
Denver’s Serbian center Nikola Jokic torched them from inside with 40 points on 17-of-23 shooting.
“I think we all should be embarrassed by the way we’re playing, losing games,” said Carmelo Anthony, the team’s most accomplished player, who scored 33 points in the losing effort.
Asked about the chants, Anthony said: “I heard it, but it had no effect.
“Tonight it was bad, as players we have to take that upon ourselves. We have to do better on the defensive end.”
The team’s brightest hope, second-year player Kristaps Porzingis of Latvia, lamented the incident involving the former Knicks power forward.
“It’s sad what happened (but) I don’t try to focus on those things,” he said in the locker room after the game.
“I heard them (the chants), yeah. Knicks fans are very loyal and we appreciate that so much. That’s why it’s so painful for us, frustrating for us that we’re not doing what we’re supposed to.
“It’s frustrating not to be able to give the fans what they want. We need more energy, we need some new energy. We’re 50-something games into the season. We have to try and find a solution for this whole thing.”
(Editing by John O’Brien)