In rare interview, James Dolan claims Bill Simmons and an NBA GM are conspiring against the Knicks

"What they are doing is they are trying to destabilize what we have, because they know that we are favored, they know that free agents want to come to us.”

James Dolan
Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, center, watches a game between the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics. –AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

Despite the wishes of at least one fan, James Dolan is adamant that he will not sell the New York Knicks.

“For the record, I am not selling the team, and I am not quitting,” Dolan, the team’s owner, said Tuesday during a rare radio interview.

Even, he was asked, if he were offered $6 billion, much more than the team is valued?

“No, we are not selling the team,” he said.

Dolan was speaking on The Michael Kay Show on 98.7 ESPN New York three days after a Knicks fan confronted him after a loss at Madison Square Garden and yelled for him to sell the team. Dolan told the fan he was being rude, and implied that he would be banned from the Garden.

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Dolan said Tuesday that if he could have done things over again, he would not have “taken the bait” and instead would have walked past the fan without engaging.

Dolan confirmed that the fan, who has yet to be publicly identified, was indeed banned from the Garden. “If you have someone that comes in and plans on making a scene and being confrontational and ruining the event for other people, including the owner, you can’t come back,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

In the interview, Dolan was challenged by the hosts on various issues, including his treatment of the New York Daily News. While the Daily News is granted the access to Knicks games and practices required by the NBA’s media guidelines, the paper’s reporters have not been included at certain Knicks news conferences this season.

“There are certain journalists that, you know, actually wish ill will toward the team,” Dolan said. “They have never written a positive story about the team. Like the (Kristaps) Porzingis trade, those guys were like, it’s the most horrible thing, another horrible thing has happened.”

Dolan said he was not concerned about appearing thin-skinned for banning the outlet. “I don’t make my decisions by PR,” he said. “I make my decisions based on what I think is right or wrong.”

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When one of the hosts, in reference to the team excluding the Daily News, called the Knicks a public trust, Dolan vehemently disagreed.

“The Knicks are not owned by the public,” he said. “They are owned by the shareholders of the company, of which I am the majority shareholder, so no.”

Kyle Wagner, the Daily News’ editor in charge of sports, defended the news outlet’s coverage in a statement emailed to The New York Times. “MSG’s grudge against the Daily News predates the journalists writing about the Knicks in our pages today,” the statement said. “If the tone of coverage tends to be negative, it’s because the team is 41 games under .500 and has the worst winning percentage in the NBA over the last 20 seasons.”

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The Knicks have the worst record in the NBA, and will miss the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season. But there is room for optimism based on the team having one of the top picks in this year’s draft and the fact that they will be far enough under the salary cap to sign two maximum-salary players this offseason.

A number of top players — including Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Klay Thompson — are expected to be free agents, and Dolan is confident the Knicks will be able to sign two of the top players despite the team’s woes.

“Free agents want to go to a winner and get paid,” said Dolan. “We are definitely going to pay them, and we think that with them and the kids we have today, we can build a winning team.”

Reading from a piece of paper in front of him, Dolan cited Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson as the young players who would complement any free-agent signings.

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The idea that Dolan might sell the team gained steam last month after sports personality Bill Simmons said on his podcast that Dolan was “courting offers,” citing people he talked to at the All-Star Game.

The Knicks refuted the report at the time, and during Tuesday’s interview Dolan theorized that a rival general manager was giving Simmons bad information in order to destabilize the Knicks.

“There are teams that do not want us to get free agents, some in particular,” said Dolan. “He is very close friends with a GM of one team. What they are doing is they are trying to destabilize what we have, because they know that we are favored, they know that free agents want to come to us.”

Dolan would not say which general manager he was referring to. After the interview, Simmons responded with sarcasm on Twitter. “Clearly — the biggest lure for future free agents is the perennially stable Knicks franchise, all those playoff wins and the leadership of owner James Dolan,” he wrote.

Simmons later doubled down on his initial report, saying it was 100 percent true.

“Tell me which GM wouldn’t want a rival superstar to leave a contender for the dumbass Knicks?” Simmons tweeted. “Also, can you destabilize a franchise that’s already been badly destabilized? I stand by what I said about JD courting offers obviously. It was 100% true.”