NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) -- Speculation about the timing of Jeremy Lin's MRI results has turned into a war of words between New York media giants.
Cablevision and Madison Square Garden have pushed back against criticism that news of the Knicks point guard'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 may have held off announcing it to get past the deadline for season ticket holders to buy playoff tickets for all rounds.
"I'm putting it out there so people can make their own conclusions about it," Isola told WFAN's Craig Carton. "Do I think that played into it on some level? Absolutely, for probably the marketing department ticketing. Do I think Jeremy Lin is thinking like that? Absolutely not."
He added: "What the Knicks will say is, 'Well, we don't want it out there that he's got a torn meniscus because if he does end up playing, we don't want other teams to know that.' But I think the big brace that he's wearing on his knee during a game would probably give it away that his knee hurts."
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.
"(Monday'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."
Dolan himself said in a statement: "I understand that there will always be those who are critical of anyone who owns a controlling interest in three New York sports franchises. But, Mr. Zuckerman's attempts to parlay this into a favorable arrangement for himself could not be more misguided."
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 the 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.
Do you think Isola hit the nail on the head -- or was he out of bounds? Sound off in the comments below...
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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