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Dolan still obstacle in Knicks' way

NEW YORK -- So now James Dolan kinda, sorta regrets unloading on a lifer New York Knicks fan who sent him the wrong email at the wrong time. At a charity event Friday, the team owner said he knew he should honor his policy of ignoring nasty notes, but that he could not resist this one time because it represented "a personal, hateful attack."

Just not as personal and hateful as Dolan's subsequent attack on the fan.

You know the story by now. A 73-year-old man named Irving Bierman sent the angry email to Dolan, and in it Bierman basically called the team owner a born-on-third-base bum who needs to sell the business his rich father handed down to him. Bierman's been following the Knicks for more than six decades, and yes, he could've been a little less hurtful in giving his vote of no confidence in Dolan's ability to end a title drought at 42 years and counting.

But rather than follow the lead of so many right-minded public figures who field cruel emails and tweets all the time, who accept them as occupational hazards and move on, James Dolan responded as only James Dolan can -- like a scorned fourth grader. He called Bierman a bunch of names, erroneously and recklessly suggested the man might be an alcoholic, told him to go root for the Brooklyn Nets and showed off an area of weakness unrelated to his command of the king's English -- a lack of understanding of the rules of social media engagement.

Meaning, there are no rules. If a Bierman family member wanted to make Dolan's private email public, Deadspin was just one "Send" button away.

Sure, Adam Silver would've fined him in any other week of the calendar year except this one: All-Star week at Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center. The commissioner didn't want Dolan to be in the news any more than he had to be, because deep down Silver likely agrees with a couple of Irving Bierman's points.

Only here's the problem: Silver's lack of action doesn't make Dolan's Dolan-ness go away, nor does Friday's non-apology from the Knicks owner. Dolan made a spectacle of himself, again. And just when the story started to simmer down, Charles Oakley, beloved Knick, crashed the boards and called his former employer "a bad guy," among other things.

The All-Stars who showed up Friday at a midtown Manhattan hotel, including several of Phil Jackson's free-agent targets, knew all about Dolan's latest screwup; of course they did. On truth serum, what do you think they'd say about it? Do you believe they'd see Dolan's passion as a positive? Or do you suspect they'd see the whole episode as another example of dysfunctional ownership making New York a less-than-desirable destination?

Players generally go where they can earn the most cash, and a quick rewind on recent Knicks history will back that up. Ever since Dolan and his lieutenants swung and missed on LeBron James in the summer of 2010, their three biggest acquisitions -- Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson -- arrived and (in Melo's case) stayed on contracts they weren't getting anywhere else.

Money matters. So if the Knicks throw their freed-up millions this summer at a couple of free agents who aren't max-contract stars, they might actually land those players.

But with their team in tatters, and with Jackson and Derek Fisher off to dreadful starts to their new careers, the Knicks have no chance of persuading Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge to leave consistent Western Conference contenders for smaller deals than they can get back home. This is where Dolan comes in.

If Jackson is to ever build a championship team, he'll need some mitigating factors on his side. At some point he'll need an important player or two to sign up for a little less money than Team B or C is offering simply because the Knicks have a winning, attractive program in place. A program defined by its stability and credibility. A program that's hard to build and sell to recruits when your owner has a history of making really bad choices.

Aldridge, the Portland star and free agent-to-be, wouldn't say Friday if he'll give any consideration to the Knicks in July. But when asked to identify the factors that will determine his choice, Aldridge said, "Winning, and being happy, and just I think those two. I want to win and I want to love where I'm at, and if I can get both of those then I'll be fine. ... Of course I want to like the management and feel comfortable that they're going to do the right things to keep winning. I want to stay in an organization where I love what they're doing."

Steve Kerr, the Western Conference coach, decided he didn't want a home in Dolan's organization after Golden State offered him a better roster, a better contract and a better long-range forecast. But people close to Kerr were stunned he didn't go to work for his mentor, Jackson, and one confirmed Friday that Dolan was among the factors (but not the only factor) that sent the coach out west.

Kerr found a now-famous home in Bierman's now-famous email; the fan wrote that Dolan's "lowballing Steve Kerr was a DISGRACE to the knicks." Asked Friday if he had concerns about Dolan's presence above Jackson, and the impact that ultimately might have on his job, Kerr said the following:

"You know, it's interesting, because while I was going through the [interview] process I was working for TNT full time, I was traveling, the whole process was sort of expedited, and ultimately it came down to making a quick decision because of the timing of the two. I trusted Phil in everything that he was doing, and I still would. But in the end, Golden State was the better choice for me."

So Kerr said a lot of things when asked if he was concerned about Dolan's presence, except this: "No." Meanwhile, the rookie Golden State coach can look down from the highest Western Conference peak and see nothing but problems with Jackson's 10-43 team. Carmelo Anthony, his bum knee all but booked for a surgeon's blade, maintained he was keeping the faith in Jackson's ability to rebuild the rotted cast around him, and Dolan said much the same.

"Trust in Phil," he said at the charity event. "Trust in Phil. I think he's going to do it."

Truth is, Phil would stand a better chance of doing it if James Dolan stopped acting like James Dolan.