It used to be that professional athletes and other celebrities who visited New York City had decent places to go if they wanted to unwind late at night.
They could hit the dance floor at Studio 54, or be seen with their own kind at Joe Namath’s Bachelors III, or hang out with the fight mob and the rest of them at Toots Shor’s. The best of all may have been Wilt Chamberlain’s club up in Harlem – Big Wilt’s Smalls Paradise. It was the type of place where you might see Boston Celtics guard K.C. Jones shaking hands with James Brown while Wilt worked the floor, and headliners like Ray Charles, Chubby Checker and Cannonball Adderley took care of business on the stage. Redd Foxx launched his career there.
For out-of-town, big-city tourists Matt Barnes and DeMarcus Cousins, their choice for late-night entertainment late Sunday was a joint in the meatpacking district called the Avenue club. Maybe the Kings’ star big man and their top reserve should have checked out the Yelp reviews before making the move over to 10th Avenue, after their 106-98 loss to the Knicks. No problem with the $2,000 VIP table fees, or the bouncers who sometimes shake you down for $300 at the door, or the $650 bottle service on Hennessy XO. But some of the Yelpers complained about 20-minute bathroom lines that VIPers beat by paying off the attendants at the lavatory door, which had the unfortunate consequence of wrapping the bathroom lines back into those $2,000, high-end tables.
Nobody needs that, and nobody needs the headache Barnes and Cousins now have from their night at the Avenue. We don’t know exactly what happened, only that the teammates are being sued in federal court. Barnes stands accused of choking a woman and knocking her senseless with an elbow to the face. The plaintiffs also charge that Cousins “sucker punched” the woman’s boyfriend when he came to her assistance to fend off the alleged attack by Barnes.
We’ve got a long way to go before authorities sort everything out, but the New York Daily News reported Friday that police were “closing in” on arresting Barnes. His lawyer has maintained his client’s innocence.
Legal observers might surmise that the matter of Jasmine Besiso and Myrone Powell v. Barnes and Cousins creates an immediate crisis of credibility. Civil lawsuits filed within 48 hours of the aggrieved conduct tend to raise suspicions about the motivations of the accuser. Couldn’t they have waited until the cops did their thing? Under New York’s statute of limitations in civil assault cases, they had a year to sue the basketball players.
Plaintiffs lawyer Michael S. Lamonsoff, however, disputed that this was some sort of cash grab by his clients. Lamonsoff said Friday that he moved fast on the suit only to counteract Barnes’ spin put out by his lawyer, Alex Spiro, early in the week that his client acted in self-defense.
“We wanted to stop that spin,” Lamonsoff said, “and we did.”
Lamonsoff said he and his team have interviewed multiple independent witnesses who were inside the club. He said the police have spoken to some of the same witnesses, and that their accounts of what happened, taken together with his clients’ statements and their physical injuries, piece together a story that is the basis of his lawsuit – “that both basketball players participated in a horrendous and vicious assault on my clients.”
The Daily News story identified only Barnes as a police target, but Lamonsoff said Cousins should be arrested, too.
“Absolutely – 100 percent,” Lamonsoff said. “He cheap-shotted my client. He’s as much to blame for this as Barnes.”
Watch the TMZ video shot outside the club after the fight and you can see Cousins laughing about the whole thing – “gloating,” as Lamonsoff puts it.
“It’s sickening,” Lamonsoff said.
Attempts to reach Cousins – through the Kings, Spiro (who is representing him as well as Barnes), and through one of his representatives – were unsuccessful.
For now, let’s let the process play out to see how funny the whole thing is. Don’t expect to see the Kings’ management laughing too much.
They brought in Barnes to foster chemistry and provide veteran leadership to the club, despite his reputation for lashing out with his fists, on and off the court. At age 36, Barnes can now be viewed as the irresponsible older brother who failed to protect his younger sibling from himself. Even worse, the big brother who should have known better to keep them both out of trouble may have been the one who got them into it.
For Cousins, this is his second late-night outing on the club circuit this year that ended badly. In May, TMZ caught him at The DrYnk in Tampa with his younger brother, Jaleel. The celebrity gossip website reported that he and his brother were trying to get into the club’s DJ area when a confrontation broke out. Jaleel wound up getting shocked with a Taser and arrested while friends hustled DeMarcus out of the place.
Now, along with The DrYnk, Cousins will always have the Avenue.
Maybe he, and Barnes, should find better places to hang out.