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James Dolan Grudges Aren’t What They Used To Be

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 08: Owner James Dolan (L) and head coach Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks attend the 2022 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 08, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

If Adam Silver is a serious commissioner in that mythical I-run-the-league way his predecessor had, he would void the New York–Toronto trade that sends OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa, and Malachi Flynn to the Knicks for R.J. Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and an eventually-to-be-retraded draft choice, for the perfectly good reason that, as Sreekar Jasthi pointed out, this appears to be the first trade in league history between the parties in an active lawsuit.

That's right. That Knicks lawsuit against the Raptors and specifically former Knicks/current Raptors employee Ikechukwu Azotam for alleged theft of intellectual property is still alive and twitching even though everyone with an opinion on it thinks this is just one of those Jimmy Dolan never-let-a-bygone-be-bygone stories. ESPN's steroidal stenographer Baxter Holmes went through the entire turgid Knicks-Raptors saga and even gave us a legal expert not actually connected with the case to reference Kentucky Fried Chicken's "11 herbs and spices" slogan, in itself a reference at least 20 years older than Dolan himself. Suffice to say the current lawsuit feels a lot like Dolan still holding a weird psychological grudge for not being asked by Eric Clapton to join Blind Faith when Dolan was 14.

But what kind of lawsuit is it if these two allegedly mortal enemies can do business? What kind of hate-hate rivalry is it when the two teams have met in two playoff series, none in the last 22 years? Other than the Golden State Warriors, whom the Raptors beat in the 2019 Finals, the Raptors have never offended anyone. It's a poor lawsuit, is what it is, one more example of Dolan exercising his petulance at the cost of his reputation as a hypertetchy failson with only one championship (the Hartford Wolf Pack’s 2000 Calder Cup, which is so much less than significant that we're going to make you look it up yourselves).

We're not lawyers, though, even though most of you are, and we can't adjudge a lawsuit merely on the say-so of everyone who has ever been asked about it. All we know is it's still in the litigation pipeline, which should preclude either side from doing business with each other until the Azotam thing is settled. After all, how much of what he allegedly stole from the Knicks to enrich the Raptors influenced this trade, and if he didn't steal it or if it is essentially useless data anyone can buy, why is there a lawsuit at all? And why did Dolan do any business with thieves, and why did Masai Ujiri do business with someone he has to testify against in court? If all this can happen between legal adversaries, why are we here at all?

Well, we know the answer to that one, don't we? Dolan, who feels insufficiently feared, just got shown again. Seriously, make an effort here. If you're going to hold a Charles Oakley–level grudge against the least offensive team in North American team sports, at least make your ball guy Leon Rose turn the deal into a three-teamer to make it seem less like you're doing business as usual with people you're claiming aren't trustworthy. Suck the Wizards in; they'll do business with anyone, and it won't affect their place inside the plugged end of the Eastern Conference slime culvert. Either that, or drop the lawsuit.

But we know that won't happen because Dolan holds a grudge like it has the half-life of Uranium-238. It's a part of what makes him the Montgomery Burns of sports. All of which means that Adam Silver, the Smithers of American sports, ought to nullify this trade, if only to defend the concept of honoring frivolously stupid lawsuits filed by people who pay 1/30th of his salary against other people who pay 1/30th of his salary. Sure, it seems like a lot to interfere with the Knicks' attempt to go from first-round playoff losers to second-round playoff losers, but the process is the process. 

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