Doc Rivers thought about it for a second, but then decided against it.
Standing on the opposite side of the court at the Garden Wednesday night, Rivers looked on helplessly as his former teammate Charles Oakley was surrounded by security guards and dragged into the tunnel in the first quarter of the Knicks’ 119-115 loss to the Clippers.
Rivers, now the coach and president of basketball operations for Los Angeles, played alongside Oakley with the Knicks for 2.5 seasons in the early ‘90s. He considered going to help his friend in the time of turmoil.
“It’s sad. That was tough for me to watch,” Rivers said after the game. “Honest to God, you can see I actually took three steps. I swear I was going to run down there, and then I thought, ‘What the hell am I going to do?’ But I didn’t like that. That’s my guy. So that was tough to watch from where I was standing.”
Oakley was arrested and charged with three counts of assault plus one count of criminal trespass. After as many as 15 security guards physically escorted him into the tunnel, Oakley was taken to the ground and handcuffed in what was an ugly scene.
“I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t know what the hell I was going to do. But I could see him standing there, and I could see all the guards around him,” Rivers said. “I’ve been around long enough to know that’s not a good look. So that’s what I saw. For me, that was tough to watch, especially the end part when I saw them in the tunnel. That was not fun to watch.”
Rivers was still trying to digest the situation in the aftermath of his team’s victory.
“He’s the best teammate in the world. He really is,” Rivers said of Oakley. “I’ve been in the league a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like that. I don’t know. I’m going to find out what’s going on. So that was tough. That was tough to watch.”
In a statement on the incident, the Knicks said they “hope (Oakley) gets some help soon.” Rivers refused to comment on what the Knicks could be referring to when they say “help.”
“I don’t know anything about all that stuff. I’m not involved in that, so I’m staying out of the fray there,” Rivers said. “But listen, he was my teammate, and he was a great teammate. I don’t know what happened. Obviously they had to do what they had to do. They were in the right. Security has to do what they have to do. But at the end of the day, it’s still your teammate. So that was tough.”