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It Happened This Week: Striking Back

Hillary Clinton hit Barack Obama on Reverend Jeremiah Wright even as critics slammed her for fibbing about Bosnian sniper fire, Sean Combs smacked down rumors that he was involved with Tupac's shooting, and other events of the week that was.

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Moynihan Station: All That Doubtful Press Actually a Good Sign

Moynihan Station
Negotiation via blind items drives epochal real-estate projects, as well as ballplayers' contract haggling, and we've uncovered reasons to view recent stories about the Moynihan Station struggles as part of an encouraging trend on the project. For one thing, Governor Spitzer has personally entered negotiations. Spokesman Errol Cockfield confirms that last week Spitz convened his first face-to-face meetings with the Dolans (who own Madison Square Garden) and the developers who own air rights to the intended Moynihan site. One player intimate with the negotiations described this as “shuttle diplomacy,” and apparently it's had an effect.

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Stephon Marbury Is Back, and Praying

Stephon Marbury
Stephon Marbury was back in Madison Square Garden last night after a week of absence forced by Isiah Thomas. (Marbury is on the injured list because of ankle surgery, but last week we learned that Thomas had banned the Knicks point guard from home games, and even went so far as to leave his name off a list of backcourt players when talking about the 2008–2009 season.) Marbury said that some of Thomas's comments this week "bothered" him a lot, but that he "prayed to God" he would return full-time next season. From the Daily News:
"Whatever [Thomas] is saying he is going to do I can't change his mind. I can tell you how I feel about the organization and how I feel about Mr. Dolan. He didn't have to sign the bill for me to come here. I respect him a lot despite all of what is going on."
Things have gotten so bad in Knicksville that now announcers rush through reading off Thomas's name so the crowd won't have time to boo. Marbury himself calls it a "circus." Since it's become clear that the feuding duo probably won't both be back next season, but maybe one or the other will, the game of sucking up to Jimmy Dolan has begun. STEPH: I WANNA STAY [NYP] Stephon Marbury back in 'circus' [NYDN]

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Presenting America's Next Top Beckham: Cruz!

Cruz Beckham
Since we already saw the Spice Girls perform in Newark last week, we didn't get around to seeing them at Madison Square Garden last night. And, boy, are we sorry. During a heartfelt rendition of "Mama," the girls pulled their real-life children onstage. Baby Spice brought her son Beau up, Scary Spice held on to tiny Angel Iris, and Ginger had her daughter Bluebell. All of them are adorable and under the age of 2. But the spotlight was stolen by the Beckham kids. As Posh Spice brought forward her three boys, little Cruz broke away from Brooklyn and Romeo and began break-dancing. He kicked, he weaved, he even spun on his head. Predictably, the crowd went insane. We're predicting he'll be the newest Beckham hero, just in time for his third birthday tomorrow! Click above to watch his moves (the action starts at about 3:30), and imagine just how spectacular he's going to turn out when he gets to be Lourdes's age. Where Did He Get Such Talent? [DListed] Earlier: The Spice Girls Set List, as Interpreted By Hamish Bowles

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Chris Rock Has a Good Question About Giuliani

Chris Rock
"Everyone says Giuliani was great on 9/11," said Chris Rock during his show at MSG on New Year's Eve. "What about on 9/10?" Joshua Jackson refused to let anyone sit with him and girlfriend Diane Kruger at the Soho Grand's New Year's Eve party. ABC anchor Bob Woodruff has made a full recovery from his Iraq injuries and recently went skiing. Eddie Murphy's ex-wife Nicole Murphy hung out at the Plumm with New York Giant Michael Strahan while Murphy was getting ready to marry Tracey Edmonds on an island in the South Pacific. Britney Spears's latest team of lawyers dumped her after a "breakdown in communication."

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Pete Wentz Wishes Everybody Were Gone So He Could Just Be Naked

Pete
Will Smith plays the last man on Earth in I Am Legend, and at the premiere at the Wamu Theater at Madison Square Garden, when we asked the predictable "what if it were you" question, there were lots of predictable answers — living in mansions, driving other people's sports cars, wearing diamonds, finding food, etc. But rocker Pete Wentz had a refreshing outlook on the whole scenario: "I'd probably just go everywhere naked," Wentz figures. "I like being alone a lot," the Fall Out Boy front man told us. "I turn off my phone. That's my best way to do it." Based on trailers of I Am Legend, however, Wentz questions the premise. "From the preview, it looks like he's got his dog in the movie. And that's not really like being alone. That's like … a dog buddy flick, you know." And Wentz never quite feels alone with his English bulldog, Hemingway, around. "He looks like an alien," Wentz says. "He looks like Stitch, and he behaves like Stitch, actually. Prime mission: to destroy everything I have in my house. He's like, is this an antique book? Delicious!" What a bummer. Now we can't name our dog Hemingway. —Bennett Marcus Hear more about I Am Legend from Will Smith, Alice Braga, and others at our complete coverage of last night's premiere.

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Isiah Thomas Finds a New Team Member to Hate On

ISiah
During last night's game against the Mavericks, Knicks coach Isiah Thomas went from just letting down his fans, as per usual, to downright turning against them. As Madison Square Garden (including fellow NYC athletes Oliver Perez and John Maine, who both pitch for the Mets) booed away, Isiah turned to a section of season-ticket holders and began accusing them of causing the Knicks' poor play. We love the coverage of this for two reasons. One, because it seems like it was just one embittered fan who sparked not just the News and Post stories, but also an AP article that was picked up all over the country. All of the pieces on Isiah turning against fans contain quotes from Mara Altschuler, who Google tells us is a television producer who has worked for CBS and Martha Stewart. Altschuler, one of those white season-ticket holders Isiah doesn’t care about, was apparently so mad that contacting three major news outlets was the only thing that would make her feel better. The other awesome thing about this coverage is that Isiah allegedly called the fans in the Garden "the sixth player," claiming that they had just as big an effect on play as the men on the court. Which is something we completely understand. It's like how Manhattan was the fifth lady on Sex and the City, people! Except if the fifth lady somehow cockblocked the other ladies. And the other ladies couldn't get a goddamned rebound to save their lives. The Garden of Hate [NYP] Isiah Thomas' Appeal Lost on Fans [NYDN]

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The Knicks Have Us All in a Tizzy

Thomas
The Knicks are in such a puzzling downward spiral that Daily News reporters can't even agree on what's up with their favorite team. After coach Isiah Thomas kicked the whole team off the court during practice yesterday for lack of "hustle," the paper's main article claims that there is "increasing speculation that Thomas is on the verge of being fired." "It is a three-ring circus" among the players and staff, said a source. "It's getting worse." But Mike Lupica, the paper's legendary sports columnist, says "Isiah Thomas can't get fired for anything … Jimmy [Dolan, chairman of the Knicks] still believes in Isiah, and there is no reason to believe that he's going to stop any time soon." Lupica suggests Dolan and Thomas stand in the middle of the Garden have a town-hall-style meeting, listening to what their paying fans have to say about the way they are destroying New York's team. They'd never do it, but we're desperately hoping that when fans start speaking with their wallets and stop buying tickets to watch team's debacles, the pair will start listening up. That or Jimmy's dad, Charles, will finally pull off his belt and whup the team (and his son) back into shape. Can we say "whup"? Does that make us sound too butch? Thomas Kicks Knicks Out Of Practice [NYDN] Jim Dolan Still Listening to Isiah Thomas [NYDN]

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Anucha Browne Sanders Continues Knicks Full Court Press

Anucha Browne Sanders
In a bizarre twist (as though there have been any twists that weren't bizarre) in the Isiah Thomas sexual harassment trial, the Post reports that a Knicks intern who succumbed to Stephon Marbury in the back of a car has agreed to testify for the defense. In other words, she's going to clear Marbury of any wrongdoing or inappropriate behavior (except, you know, cheating on his wife). This is an effort to clear up the impression that lawyers for plaintiff Anucha Browne Sanders are trying to create, which is that the Knicks enterprise is macho and sexist. But just as they try to staunch that wound, another one has sprung open. The Daily News reveals that Browne Sanders unearthed a Burn Book written by Madison Square Garden officials describing what they'd like to do to the comely Rangers ice dancers. And we're not talking about assisting with a double-hand lift. It boggles the mind why the Knicks haven't settled yet. This circus of sleaze is only going to get worse, and knowing this city's tabloids, it's only a matter of time before the team gets rechristened "The New York Dickerbockers." Stephon's Hoop Skirt to Testify [NYP] Ice-Skate Shocker Has 'Em Shivering [NYDN]

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Message in a Garden

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The Police played New York last night for the first time since 1983, putting on a show of classics in the first of three gigs this week at Madison Square Garden and Giants Stadium. We'd love to have Vulture's take, but the promoters wouldn't give our pals a ticket. (Keep an eye out for a review — based on attendance at honest-to-goodness, full-price admission — later this week.) There's nothing in the Times, either, but one presumes that's because Jon Pareles got out too late to make his deadline, not because the Police disliked him, too. The Daily News posts a notice today, though, finding the show a bit too tight and scripted. Still, wrote critic Jim Farber, "it's hard to carp about any show that highlighted a catalogue so rich in winning tunes and clever hooks, let alone one that delivered them with so much zest." Mmm … zesty!

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Bank-Branch Infiltration Reaches Madison Square Garden

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This just in via e-mailed press release: The space formerly known as the Theater at Madison Square Garden, formerly known as the Paramount Theater and even more formerly as the Felt Forum, will now be known as the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden. "The name of The Theater will be changed immediately," the release reports, and the deal will include signage throughout the Garden and eleven WaMu ATMs at the venue. (Please tell us this doesn't mean the end of the Chase machines near the Seventh Avenue entrance. WaMu, as we discovered the other night, is now up to a $2 charge for using its ATMs. So much for the buck-fifty stopping there.) Six months ago, the city's three major sports venues — the Garden, Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium, — remained proudly unsponsored. Now the Garden's got WaMu, at least peripherally, Shea's gone Citi, and only one question remains: Which bank will meet Steinbrenner's price? Full press release is after the jump.

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Dolans Finally Take Their Cable Company (and Their Garden, and Their Knicks, and So Forth) and Go Home

If taking public companies private is the hot new thing in megabusiness, the Dolans just became the most fashionable billionaires out there: After three years and three failed attempts to privatize Cablevision, Chuck and Jim have just worked out a deal with their company's board that will restore the family's total control over their lumbering brainchild. Cablevision, which comes complete with holdings like the Knicks and the Rangers, Radio City Music Hall, and over $12 billion in debt, will change hands for $10.5 billion in cash. With the liabilities worked in, that adds up to almost $23 billion. The Dolans pledge to cash out the current shareholders at $36.26 a share, which is their highest offer yet — a hearty 11 percent over the stock's actual value as of yesterday. We learn all this from the Times, of course, where the Sulzbergers are no doubt paying attention. One hopes. Cablevision Agrees to Sell Itself to the Dolans [NYT]

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