Knicks owner James Dolan will spend NBA draft night playing a blues gig

James L. Dolan of JD & The Straight Shot performs during the AOL Build Speaker Series on Jan. 19, 2016 in New York City. (Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)

The 2017 NBA draft will take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Thursday night. In the hours before the first pick’s announced, though, a great many NBA-observing eyes figure to be trained on Madison Square Garden, where the New York Knicks remain an unceasing font of slack-jaw-inducing intrigue thanks to Phil Jackson’s continued insistence on entertaining trade discussions that would ship rising third-year star Kristaps Porzingis out of Manhattan, thanks in part to the 7-foot-3 Latvian’s decision to skip his year-end exit interview with Jackson and general manager Steve Mills back in April.

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Not all NBA-observing eyes, though. A pretty important pair of peepers, at least from the Knicks’ perspective — those belonging to MSG executive chairman and Knicks owner James Dolan — won’t be fixated on Phil, or Kristaps, or what Jackson chooses to do with the No. 8 pick in Thursday’s draft, or anything of the sort. No, Dolan will instead be focused on his one true love: delivering tasty blues-infused roots rock licks to a paying public.

That’s right: while the Knicks embark on their latest make-or-break evening, Dolan will be fronting his band, JD & The Straight Shot, in a concert at City Winery in SoHo:

Americana band JD & The Straight Shot – featuring vocalist/guitarist Jim Dolan whose voice the New York Post calls “reminiscent of Tom Waits and Randy Newman,” bassist Byron House (Robert Plant, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton), violinist/fiddler Erin Slaver (Martina McBride, Rod Stewart) and guitarist Marc Copely (B.B. King, Rosanne Cash) – is currently working on their forthcoming album due out in 2017.

The achingly beautiful first single “I Know, You Know, I Know” gives an exciting taste of what’s to come. The track produced by Chuck Ainlay (Mark Knopfler, Miranda Lambert), was written by Dolan, Copely and Slaver and spotlights sweeping accordion melodies performed by Shawn Pelton (Sheryl Crow, Levon Helm). The new song has been a rousing audience favorite at JD & The Straight Shot shows.

You, too, can be a roused audience member. Grab a seat at the bar for $20; elevate to VIP status for $25. Doors open at 6 p.m. ET and the show starts at 8; you’ll be home before the second round ends!

In fairness to Dolan, it’s not like most owners attend the NBA draft anyway. Sure, some make it a point to attend draft night events to gladhand season-ticket holders and try to stoke excitement about the bold new direction of the franchise’s future … but given how things tend to go when your man Jim interacts with Knicks fans, it’s probably better for all involved that he’ll be on stage instead.

Besides — and here I go again, offering even more fairness to ol’ JD — this was what Dolan promised when he hired Jackson to be the Knicks’ president of basketball operations in 2014.

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After years of hands-on ownership — which reportedly included giving copies of JD & The Straight Shot CDs to free-agent targets in the summer of 2010 — resulted in dismal and dispiriting seasons with nary a sniff of legitimate postseason contention, Dolan “willingly and gratefully” ceded authority of the Knicks’ on-court decision-making to the 11-time NBA champion. Even as things have gone south in New York — and man, have they, with the Knicks rolling up an 80-166 record in three full seasons under the Zen Master’s stewardship — Dolan has maintained his distance and his commitment to giving Jackson freedom and time to turn things around.



“I am going to honor my agreement,” Dolan said during a February radio appearance that began as a way for the owner to tell his side of the “We had franchise legend Charles Oakley hauled out of the arena in handcuffs” story before touching on the lamentable state of the Knicks. “It doesn’t matter whether I think he is right or whether he’s wrong. I am going to honor my agreement because that’s what you do. He’s got at least a little more than two years left and has every right to continue on with that agreement for the full time. And let’s hope that he is successful.”

Four months later, after the Knicks had wrapped up another woeful season marked by Jackson’s perpetual public war with Carmelo Anthony and a souring of the team’s relationship with Porzingis, Dolan continued to insist on steering clear of any pronouncements on New York’s on-court product and plans for the future.

“Ask Phil,” Dolan said earlier this month during an appearance on Fox’s “Good Day New York.” “It’s all Phil. It’s all [general manager] Steve [Mills]. I’m working on my music. They’re working on the basketball team.”

And, given the latest Kristaps-related developments, much to the chagrin of many, many Knicks fans.

On one hand, Dolan probably deserves some level of commendation for keeping his word, refusing to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong, and leaving the basketball decisions to the basketball people while pursuing his passion. On the other, as pointed out by longtime friend of the program NBA Injury Report, the optics of Dolan’s specific choice of activity at this specific time in the Knicks’ in-progress deterioration leave something to be desired:


But then, if it didn’t look worse than it needed to, we wouldn’t be talking about the New York Knicks, would we?

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

More NBA draft coverage from Yahoo Sports:
Troubling new report about Phil Jackson, Knicks
The mocking draft: Ranking picks by quirks
The Vertical’s team-by-team NBA draft guide