It has been five months since Cablevision boss James Dolan told Marv Albert that telling the truth about the Knicks is a criminal offense at Madison Square Garden.
Dolan, who owns the joint, the teams that play in it and the networks (MSG/FSNY) airing games of those teams, found Albert guilty of refusing to be a shill and booted him out the door.

There is a certain sadness to all this. It likely will dawn on Knicks fans Wednesday night when they turn on MSG to see their team play Minnesota. After 36 seasons as voice of the Knicks, there will be no Albert at the microphone.

"The sad part of all this," Albert told me, "is the Garden was once a great place to work."

While they would never admit it publicly, some of Albert's former colleagues feel the same way. Albert called them "great people" whom he still regularly talks to. These particular folks have to support themselves and their families. So, they drink Dolan's Kool-Aid, but don't swallow.

On the way home, they spit it out.

Albert refused to even sample Dolan's strange brew. He didn't have to. Fortunately, he has other sources of income. There is his gig as TNT's voice of the NBA and his role as play-by-play man on Westwood One Radio's "Monday Night Football."

Still, for almost two seasons, Dolan - through his emissaries - attempted to change the way Albert has always done business.

"It wasn't just me," Albert said. "Everyone involved with the broadcasts was getting these calls. I finally just said, 'Don't call me anymore.'" For a man like Dolan, who is used to getting - or be given - anything he wants, this was an act of defiance.

Dolan could not tolerate Albert refusing his edict to refrain from praising the play of any Knicks opponent.

Albert also refused to follow Dolan's order about never discussing a bad Knicks loss during the subsequent game telecast.

"All these orders were coming over the last year and a half," Albert said. "You can't broadcast like that. You can't fool the fans. For anyone to think you can is ridiculous."

There was a more insidious side to all this. It's one thing for Dolan to order a home-cooked telecast, but quite another to try to manipulate an on-court situation.

This, Albert said, is what happened last April 17 during Game 1 of the Nets-Knicks playoff series. During an "altercation" between Frank Williams and Jason Kidd, an MSG camera focused on Richard Jefferson taking one step off the Nets bench.

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