Charles Oakley riffs on Knicks, Kyrie Irving’s vaccination and new cooking show

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NEW YORK — To the opinionated Charles Oakley, the Knicks carry questions into their second season under Tom Thibodeau.

And that starts with Julius Randle.

“I always said they haven’t had a star player since Carmelo. Now they got a star,” Oakley told the Daily News. “But there’s a lot of teams that got stars, so can that star get to the next level? I don’t know. Can he win seven games more than last year? Was last year fool’s gold? You don’t want to go back to seventh and eighth seed when you were at four.”

Oakley’s assessment is common throughout the NBA. The Knicks remain an unknown. They overachieved last season and upgraded in the summer, but the Eastern Conference is suddenly deep and it’s not outrageous to predict the Knicks in the play-in tournament.

Only about five months ago — as the Knicks were surging toward the fourth seed — Oakley labeled Randle better than Zion Williamson. But after Randle’s playoff dud against the Hawks, Oakley seemed to carry more skepticism.

“They don’t have one guy who you could put the ball in their hands,” he said. “I don’t know if they have that kind of All-Star. They have an All-Star, but what kind of All-Star? Are you an A, B, C. There are stages of All-Stars.”

One question the Knicks have already hurdled is the vaccination mandate in New York City. Their staff and players are 100% vaccinated, which is something the Nets couldn’t claim because of Kyrie Irving’s status. If Irving doesn’t receive at least one shot, he’s unable to play home games.

New York City and San Francisco are the only NBA markets with laws mandating vaccination for indoor gatherings. Oakley believes the country and NBA should adopt a blanket vaccine mandate, but said it’s unfair to single out Irving or dock his pay if he doesn’t’ play.

(The NBA says it proposed a vaccine mandate that was rejected by the players union).

“It’s in the contract. (Irving’s) healthy. He wants to play,” Oakley said. “They need to mandate it in the country. Then it wouldn’t be a conversation.”

Oakley is always comfortable voicing his opinions, especially on the Knicks, but was speaking Tuesday because of his expanding portfolio. In addition to his memoir being released early next year ("The Last Enforcer"), Oakley is hosting a streaming show premiering Oct. 7. The show, entitled “Chopping it Up with Charles Oakley,” is based on the Knicks legend’s second passion — cooking.

The premise is Oakley prepares a meal requested by a celebrity guest — (he teased former NBAers Dominique Wilkens, Stephen Jackson, Jim Jackson and Steve Smith, along with actresses LisaRaye McCoy and Jazmin Lewis) — and they spark up a conversation. The show, produced by the For Us By Us Network, will stream on Fox Soul.

Oakley has long history with the culinary arts. He used to cook for his teammates in Chicago and Toronto (the Knicks players lived too far apart for team meals). Among the consumers was Michael Jordan.

“Michael will eat anything. He’s not a picky eater like me,” Oakley said. “He likes pork chops, steak. Chicken legs. The meats, not so much the vegetables. And apple pie. He loves apple pie.”

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