As he considers whether the Knicks are in his future, Kevin Durant’s media paranoia is being applauded by Garden boss James (Guitar Jimmy) Dolan. In that department, Dolan can be quite helpful should K.D. decide to come to the Drecka and play basketball for the World’s Most Dysfunctional Franchise.
If Durant has a problem with a media type, Dolan will have the scribe banned from a press conference, conference call, or grant access but make sure the reporter won’t be allowed to ask a question. Dolan will allow Durant to pick and choose who he wants to speak with, without worrying about being fined by the team or paying a fine, should Adam Silver, who has a soft spot in his brain for Dolan, actually levy one.
And if Durant should ever find himself in a media firestorm, he can count on Dolan’s MSG Network to either ignore it or spin it in Durant’s favor. History also tells us, Dolan, or one of his PR operatives, is not above reaching out to management of ESPN-98.7, the Knicks radio flagship, to tell its Gasbags to calm down or risk losing radio rights.
And if the other Valley of the Stupid outlet, WFAN, gets too rough on Durant, Dolan will tell all Garden personnel, including players, to turn down all FAN interview requests. Come to think of it, a Garden boycott of FAN has been going on since last August when Dolan was offended by the “personal nature” of a Maggie Gray rant.
Dolan’s reputation for spitting on the media should not be lost on Durant, who is sensitive, a little surly, and not always easy for boss scribes to deal with. His latest media episode came in a Wednesday postgame press conference where Durant expressed displeasure over the noise surrounding his impending free agency. When asked why he had not talked to the media in nine days, Durant said: “I just don’t trust y’all.”
This had to be music to Guitar Jimmy’s ears. Face it, if Durant signs with the Knicks, Dolan won’t need the media’s help to sell tickets.
Nor will he need the media to bring eyeballs to MSG Network. In that area, Dolan only needs the kind of star power Durant, another max free agent, and a No. 1 draft choice can bring. And he needs this possible troika’s help badly.
Through 49 games this season, the Knicks MSG ratings are down a whopping 44% as compared to 52 games last season. By comparison, the Nets on YES through 56 games are up 9% this season compared to 55 games last season.
So, if and when Dolan gets to do a face-to-face pitch with Durant, he actually should bring up the media thing and say: “Around here, with very few exceptions, we control the media. We ban the ones who bother us and feed crumbs to the ones who toe our line.” What other organization can claim this? What other organization can sell this twisted philosophy, albeit one Durant will appreciate?
Still, Durant will never transform the organization or the way it’s defined unless he leads the Knicks to an NBA championship.
Expectations, no matter if they come from Dolan’s media adversaries or those who have soft-pedaled his reign of rancid, will be equally as high. So will the pressure. So will the microscopic scrutiny. Now as Knicks speculation provides a bridge to somewhere — or nowhere — there are plenty of unanswered questions.
Naturally, Durant and Dolan have no comment.
In a recent editorial, the New York Post took Dolan to task for banning Stefan Bondy, the Daily News’ Knicks beatman, from a conference call held by Knicks Prez Steve (Mummy) Mills.
The NYP piece didn’t go far enough. As the editorial pointed out, it’s only a matter of time before Dolan “brings the same sort of vengeance down” on other newspapers. Actions speak louder than words. If Dolan decides to ban or isolate one writer, all of them should refuse to participate in a conference call or press conference.
While the state of our industry is beyond shaky, that doesn’t mean the Fourth Estate should be bullied, pushed around like some stumblebum, and prevented from doing their jobs by an impetuous, billionaire NBA owner.
Are the writers now so afraid they might “miss” something, or might be cut off by the organization they cover, that they won’t engage in an act of solidarity?
BART GOT ROBBED
It appears that during his brief tenure at CBS’ “The NFL Today,” Bart Scott was the brains behind the show.
That’s what Scott suggested on a recent episode of CMB on FAN. Scott said he couldn’t stop yapping during production meetings where he would unload all his football insight.
“Then they (his colleagues on the show) would ‘steal’ it and use it on the air,” Scott said. He also said Bill Cowher used a lot of his stuff.
Scott said he was foolish to assume his fellow panelists had his best interests at heart.
WON’T KISS THE RING
It’s not a reach to suggest LeBron James is in the head of many of ESPN’s Gasbags.
You only need to watch a couple of hours of the network’s programming to figure this out. Is this why Stephen A. Smith recently went out of his way to distance himself from The King? Or was this just another way to separate himself from others who work on the campus of Bristol Clown Community College.
“When I see him, when I pass him in person I only say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to LeBron James,” SAS said on the air. “I’ll let Rachel Nichols do the interviews. I don’t kiss anyone’s you know what. I’m not saying she (Nichols) is. But I ain’t kissing anyone’s you know what.”
You know what? It sure sounds like SAS was suggesting Nichols had lobbed a few Twinkies at LBJ during their interviews.
AROUND THE DIAL
Lost in the Super Bowl aftermath was Jim Gray’s (Westwood One) radio play-by-play of the Super Bowl halftime show. With lines like: “Adam Levine. … removing his shirt” or “Up on stage, here comes Big Boi wearing a big fur coat,” Gray painted a masterpiece. This was a call for the ages. … Another gem in HBO’s Nick Buoniconti documentary that airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. is about his time as a sports agent. “I was a good negotiator. In his book, George Steinbrenner said I was the toughest guy he ever negotiated with. That was when Bucky Dent hit the home run that won the pennant for the Yankees. I negotiated his contract.” … No surprise MSG’s Mike Breen, the NBA’s version of Switzerland, hedged while giving his reaction to the Kristaps Porzingis trade and whose version to believe. Breen is the ultimate diplomat/ politician.
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DUDE OF THE WEEK: BROOK LOPEZ
For wanting to be a Superhero. And the Bucks’ center will gladly let a bat bite him to make that wish come true. With bats flying around a few NBA arenas scaring players, Lopez is not afraid. “If you learned anything from the modern superhero myth, if you see a bat around and it bites you, you have a 75 percent change of ending up a superhero,” Lopez told SB Nation. “Otherwise you’ll probably get really sick.” Good luck Mr. Lopez. You will need it.
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: LAVAR BALL
Just when it appeared LeBron James’ arrival in L.A. had neutralized the ubiquitous motor mouth (or did the Lakers buy Ball’s silence?) all hell broke loose last week. LaVar, father of Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball, shifted his mouth into overdrive. Trade rumors. Salary dumps and roster manipulation took center stage. And nobody enjoys crowing, whether he has anything worthwhile to say, more than LaVar Ball.
What Noah Syndergaard said: “The serotonin release I just get from being around the other guys (in Port St. Lucie). It’s very uplifting.”