'Spike' in no-shows means small Knicks crowd

Jalen is disgusted with the Knicks in aftermath of Spike Lee incident (1:16)

Jalen Rose is not happy with how the Knicks dealt with Spike Lee after a confrontation with security on Monday. (1:16)

NEW YORK -- Spike Lee isn't the only fan who has decided to be a no-show at New York Knicks games.

The Knicks drew their smallest home crowd in nearly 13½ years Wednesday night, falling more than 3,200 below capacity in a 112-104 loss to the Utah Jazz.

The announced crowd was just 16,588, with noticeable patches of empty seats throughout an arena that lists 19,812 as its capacity for NBA games.

That means the arena was filled to about 84% capacity -- leaving one in every six seats unsold.

Blame poor play, anger over Lee's altercation or coronavirus concerns, but fans hadn't stayed away from Madison Square Garden in such large numbers since Dec. 13, 2006 -- more than 500 regular-season games ago -- when the Knicks drew 15,895 for a victory over Atlanta early in Isiah Thomas' first season as coach.

What was once one of the toughest tickets in town is no longer the case as the Knicks (19-43) finish out their seventh straight year out of the playoffs. Attendance is on track to drop for the fourth straight season.

The game came just two nights after one of the Knicks' best performances of the season, when they knocked off Houston 125-123 on the day they hired longtime agent Leon Rose as their new team president. That victory quickly became overshadowed by the fallout from Lee's clash with security guards who blocked him from using the employee entrance to reach his courtside seats.

The Oscar-winning writer-director, a ticket holder for nearly three decades, told ESPN the following day that he wouldn't attend any more Knicks home games this season, accusing Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan of harassing him.

That just increased anger fans already have toward the owner. Chants of "Sell the team! Sell the team!" have broken out during games at the Garden this season, including Wednesday night.

Dolan, however, said earlier this season while searching for a replacement after firing Steve Mills as president that he wasn't planning to sell.

The Knicks are expecting close to a sellout Friday night when they host Oklahoma City. That's part of a run of nine games in nine nights at Madison Square Garden -- five Knicks and four Rangers -- during a congested part of the schedule before both teams go on the road, with the arena hosting the Big East tournament next week and the NCAA's East Regional the last weekend of March.