NBPA officers express concern over Oakley-Knicks conflict

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Officers with the National Basketball Players Association said Friday that the problems between Charles Oakley and Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan could impact decisions future free agents make about playing for the New York Knicks.

Oakley was removed from MSG earlier this month, pulled away by security guards, handcuffed, arrested and eventually banned from entering the arena . That ban has since been lifted, but the long-strained relationship between Oakley - a very popular player when he was a Knick - and the team remains tenuous at best.

''I think it's kind of a personal thing,'' said NBPA vice president Anthony Tolliver of the Sacramento Kings. ''I think some guys, for sure, notice it and some of those guys have made it known that it will affect them. Other guys, maybe not.''

Added NBPA secretary-treasurer James Jones of the Cleveland Cavaliers: ''It's kind of self-evident.''

Tolliver has played for nine franchises in his nine NBA seasons, and said one thing he's learned in his many moves is how some franchises are just operated differently than others.

''Can't really put a blanket statement over all players,'' Tolliver said. ''But for me personally, playing for so many different teams like I have, there's a big difference between an organization that's run the right way and an organization that isn't.''

It's an issue of particular importance for NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts - not just because of her role in the union, but because she's a New York fan.

''I have been a fan of the Knicks since I could spell, and I welled up when I saw what happened to Oak,'' Roberts said. ''So of course I was affected by that.''

Dolan said Oakley was being abusive when he got to his seat for the game on Feb. 8, and later suggested on ESPN New York that the former player ''has a problem with anger. He's both physically and verbally abusive. He may have a problem with alcohol. We don't know.''

Dolan and Oakley, with help from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan , began mending fences this week. But it remains a topic at All-Star weekend, and Silver will almost certainly address it again when he holds his annual All-Star news conference on Saturday.

''I know Oak personally, so that was real tough to watch,'' union president Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers said. ''To hear them say that they hope Oak is going to get some help like he's mentally ill or something, that was tough. Since I've come into the NBA and talking about looking out for younger players, Oak has been a guy who has always checked on me - injury, anything like that. To see him treated in that fashion was tough.''

The BIG3, the 3-on-3 league featuring former NBA players that will debut this summer, announced Friday that Oakley would be a player-coach of the Killer 3s. The team also includes Chauncey Billups and Stephen Jackson.

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