The New York Knicks sought to reassure their fan base on Sunday after a report that much-maligned team owner James Dolan balked at offering superstar free agent Kevin Durant a maximum contract due to concerns about his recovery from an Achilles injury.
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Knicks fans took to social media to voice their complaints after the team’s crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Nets, signed Durant and fellow free agent star Kyrie Irving to max contracts. Much of the criticism was aimed at Dolan, who has faced pressure in recent years amid the Knicks’ on-court struggles and a series of off-court incidents with fans and ex-players.
“While we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight’s news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through the draft, targeted free agents and continuing to build around our core of young players,” Knicks President Steve Mills said in a statement.
The statement came shortly after ESPN reported that Dolan was “not prepared” to offer Durant a max contract because of his health issues. The 31-year-old star is expected to miss the entire 2019-20 NBA season while recovering from an Achilles injury.
The Nets signed Durant to a four-year contract worth $164 million. While the Knicks missed out on their top free agent targets, they signed several well-regarded free agents, including point guard Elfrid Payton and forwards Julius Randle and Taj Gibson.
While the Knicks have failed to contend for a championship in recent years, their struggles have not had a discernible impact on their status as one of the most venerable franchises in sports. The Knicks are the NBA’s most valuable franchise, with an estimated worth of $4 billion, according to Forbes.
Still, Dolan’s antics have often rankled fans. The 64-year-old businessman has engaged in a longstanding feud with Charles Oakley, a former Knicks great who was ejected from Madison Square Garden and arrested during an incident in February 2017.
In March 2019, Dolan faced widespread criticism after he banned a Knicks fan who told him to sell the franchise. A video of the altercation went viral on social media.