The most bizarre story of the NBA offseason began at 1:49 a.m. on an empty soccer field in Manhattan. It ended, or at least took its latest turn, with a New York Knicks executive telling an inquiring reporter to “get the f— out of here.”
Welcome to the most entertaining sports league in the world. Welcome to the most dysfunctional franchise in that league. Welcome to one of the stupidest and most absurd off-court plots you’ll read this year.
A lot happened in between the opening scene and climax of this story, of course, so let’s dive in. That soccer field actually wasn’t empty, because it was occupied by Knicks star Carmelo Anthony and trainer Chris Brickley. At one point during Anthony’s late-night workout, Brickley whipped out his phone, and shot video of Melo, wearing all black, his face partially obscured by a hood, running and shuffling across the turf. Brickley posted the video to Instagram:
Innocuous enough, right? At that point, yes.
The following day, Knicks general manager Steve Mills and his fellow front office members were sitting courtside in Orlando on the second day of NBA Summer League. They were there to watch Knicks youngsters and unsigned NBA rookies take on the Detroit Pistons.
But when NBA TV cameras panned over to Mills, vice president of player personnel Clarence Gaines Jr. and others, they were watching something else. Gaines had his phone out, and was showing Mills and the rest of the crew a video. Look closely, and decide for yourself what that video may or may not have been:
Knicks executives laughing at Carmelo's workout tapes is all you need to know about that situation pic.twitter.com/43oGvgf278
— 12up (@12upSport) July 2, 2017
Is it unfair to make assumptions? Yeah, probably. It’s also slightly unfair to assume that the video was the subject of the smiles and laughter the broadcast picked up.
But the internet lapped it up, and contorted the NBA TV clip into a controversy. That Carmelo has been the subject trade talks and rumors was surely a catalyst as the story accelerated around social media. The Knicks did not respond to a request for comment from beat writer Ian Begley on Sunday:
Impossible to say w/certainty what's being laughed at in this video w/out asking those involved. NYK didn't respond to request for comment. https://t.co/iG3KOVtyLt
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) July 3, 2017
The following day, Monday, both Mills and Gaines were again asked to comment. Mills declined. Gaines … well, he declined, too, but not in the way you’d expect.
“I’m not commenting on that — get the f— out of here with that,” Gaines told reporters, according to the New York Post.
In fairness, it’s tough to blame Gaines for being fed up with the New York media. They manufacture controversy and gossip out of nothing, and poke around for things that oftentimes don’t need to be poked around for.
On the other hand, reporters were just doing their jobs. The video went semi-viral on social media. Fans were talking about it. So reporters had to ask about it. They probably didn’t expect or need such a fiery response, but they got one — and that response is now another story on its own.
The Knicks have been the laughing stock of the NBA ever since the Phil Jackson era began hurtling out of control during June. Jackson was finally axed by owner James Dolan less than 72 hours before the start of free agency. But the crazy headlines clearly haven’t accompanied Jackson out the door.