The New York Knicks have removed a photo that features their promising rookie center, Mitchell Robinson, from a website used by the team for season ticket holders. Why?
Well, the photo also happened to prominently display Kevin Durant.
You know, the same Kevin Durant who happens to play for the Golden State Warriors, but who also has been widely reported to be a top target for the Knicks in free agency this offseason. As the image spread online, it was probably easy for some observers to suspect the Knicks were sending a less-than-subtle signal about why it might be well worth it to renew season tickets.
“Game action photos are used all the time for marketing purposes, but given everything going on, we took the precaution of taking the photo down,” the Knicks said in a statement (via the New York Daily News). “To be clear, it was one of several rotating photos on the website.”
The Knicks might have taken the image down to avoid a tampering fine from the NBA, or at least a warning from the league, as it already has an issue with prominent players appearing to eye their next teams before their contracts are up. The Pelicans’ Anthony Davis was recently docked $50,000 after his agent made it publicly known that the all-star forward wanted to be traded, with the Lakers reported to be his preferred destination.
Durant, who is expected to opt out of his Warriors contract after this season, has been dogged all season by speculation about whether he will re-sign with Golden State or move elsewhere this summer. After the Knicks’ trade of Kristaps Porzingis cleared enough salary cap space to potentially sign two maximum-level free agents in July, rumors abounded that the team was already confident of landing Durant.
It wasn’t lost on beat reporters for the Warriors that, in the immediate wake of the trade, Durant stopped speaking with the media. After making himself unavailable for over a week, the two-time reigning Finals MVP launched into a tirade Wednesday, telling reporters: “I have nothing to do with the Knicks. I don’t know who traded Porzingis. They got nothing to do with me. I’m trying to play basketball."
While Robinson is popular among Knicks fans, it would be understandable if the team was trying to look beyond its current roster for ways to lure fans into renewing their season tickets. New York has lost 16 straight games, just four shy of a dubious franchise record, and holds the NBA’s worst record.
As the Daily News pointed out, the NBA fined the Atlanta Hawks in 2013 after a letter that mentioned a pair of impending free agents, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, was sent to prospective ticket buyers. A sales representative for the team was fired, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, with the Hawks saying in a statement that the man’s “specific reference" did not "represent how our basketball operations or our business staff have consistently communicated about free agency.”
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