NEW YORK — Cablevision and Madison Square Garden are pushing back against criticism that news of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin's knee injury was withheld until after a playoff ticket-buying deadline had passed, saying the accusations are part of a "campaign of intimidation and extortion" by publisher Mort Zuckerman to bring about a merger between the operations of two local newspapers.
The team had announced Saturday that Lin would be missing the rest of the regular season — at least — after an exam revealed a small, chronic meniscus tear that would need surgery to repair. Lin had the surgery Monday.
Lin's unexpected emergence as a top-flight player spurred not only a Knicks' winning streak in February, but a major uptick in interest in the team world-wide.
In Monday's edition, New York Daily News writer Frank Isola said medical testing had shown the injury to Lin's left knee earlier in the week but the team held off announcing it to get past the deadline for season ticket holders to buy playoff tickets for all rounds.
"It was two days before the deadline when Lin and the Knicks' medical staff learned that the second-year point guard/cash cow was suffering from a torn meniscus in his left knee and that he wouldn't be jumping for joy anytime soon," Isola wrote.
In a statement, Cablevision said the story was an attempt at provocation. The company called out Daily News publisher Zuckerman, saying he was trying to get a merger between that paper and Newsday, the Long Island paper owned by Cablevision.
Cablevision said Zuckerman recently made his pitch at a lunch meeting on March 6, offering that negative coverage would end if the merger went through.
"Today's back page story is just another in a series of these defamatory extortions," said Cablevision, which along with MSG is controlled by the family of James Dolan.
MSG called the story "completely inaccurate" and a "malicious attack."
In a statement released later Monday, Daily News editor-in-chief Colin Myler said Isola's column "has been totally misrepresented by Mr. Dolan."
He added, "As always, we will continue to report in a fair and independent editorial manner."
The Daily News had no comment on Dolan's allegations about an extortion campaign.
In 2008, real estate mogul Zuckerman was among those bidding to buy Newsday when it was put up for sale. He is also editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report.