Du­rant, of all people, sneaks into Knicks’ sea­son-ticket re­newal no­tice photo

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - BY STE­FAN BONDY

A photo that in­cluded Kevin Du­rant was posted and re­moved by the Knicks af­ter the team was ac­cused of sneak­ily us­ing its top free-agent tar­get to sell sea­son tick­ets.

Screen­shots cap­tured by fans showed the photo of Du­rant in a War­riors uni­form with Knicks cen­ter Mitchell Robin­son along­side a link to “learn more” about sea­son-ticket re­newal in­for­ma­tion. Not long af­ter the pro­mo­tion sur­faced on Twit­ter, the pic­ture was gone from the team-af­fil­i­ated web­site, nyk­mem­ber­ship.com.

“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. “To be clear, it was one of sev­eral ro­tat­ing pho­tos on the web­site.”

In­deed, it’s com­mon for teams to in­clude op­pos­ing stars in ad­ver­tise­ments — es­pe­cially for sin­gle-game pro­mo­tions. In this in­stance, though, the sug­ges­tion was that Du­rant could be part of a larger pur­chase. Af­ter all, Du­rant’s free agency has dom­i­nated the con­ver­sa­tion around New York all sea­son.

The Knicks are in the midst of a fran­chise-record 16-game los­ing streak and have been sell­ing the fan base on land­ing a su­per­star free agent in the sum­mer. Not-so-sub­tly in­clud­ing Du­rant in a photo with Robin­son, if in­ten­tional, could be a smart strate­gic move. It would also be frowned upon by the War­riors, who are hop­ing to re-sign Du­rant them­selves and have had to deal with the very real threat of the Knicks.

The At­lanta Hawks, for in­stance, were fined for tam­per­ing in 2013 af­ter send­ing out let­ters to prospec­tive ticket buy­ers that men­tioned two play­ers who were not on the team — Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. Both stars were slated to be­come un­re­stricted free agents that sum­mer, much like Du­rant will be on July 1.

The dead­line for sea­son-ticket re­newal is Feb. 28. At­ten­dance this sea­son is down at MSG for a third straight year and rat­ings on MSG Net­work have plum­meted 44%. The Knicks (10-45) are well on their way to a fifth con­sec­u­tive sea­son with at least 50 losses, which has never been done in fran­chise his­tory.

Knicks ex­pect to make big pitch for Kevin Du­rant in off­sea­son, and just in case sea­son-ticket hold­ers needed a re­minder, they got one. AP/SCREEN SHOT VIA TWIT­TER

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