Some NBA teams have been known to rush players coming off of serious injuries back. This may help in the short-term, but such a plan fizzles out rather quickly, if and when said player suffers another setback.
Luckily, the Knicks aren't doing this when it comes to Arron Afflalo. Despite positive showings from both Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic in Sunday's win over the Lakers, there's no doubt the duo has underwhelmed and under performed at times this season. Still, head coach Derek Fisher has been hesitant to change things up, mainly because in turn, that would also disrupt some of the really great momentum the likes of Langston Galloway and Jerian Grant have created off the bench.
When Afflalo returns, he'll obviously be a big upgrade over Vujacic. What's more, Calderon could certainly improve playing off a more talented and potent player in the backcourt as well. As important as it is to have Afflalo in the lineup, hamstring injuries can be especially difficult for a player to come back from. There are almost always nagging effects. The pain can linger on for a prolonged period of time. If a player like Afflalo is hitting the hardwood with full gusto too early, he could certainly suffer a setback that leaves negative effects for both him and the Knicks in the long run.
There's also a decent chance that when Afflalo does return (a more likely date is Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets), he won't particularly be 100%. He's likely to be inching his way back for quite a while. That's alright, as long as the Knicks choose not to depend upon him too heavily early on.
If the starting backcourt wasn't so much of an issue as it is, it would probably be worthwhile to bring Afflalo in off the bench to start things off; perhaps play him a modified 20-24 minutes per game in a low pressure circumstances while he gets his legs back. While such a minutes plan could certainly still work, the Knicks desperately need new blood in the starting lineup.
The team is going to benefit, not only from Afflalo's defensive instincts, but even more so his ability to score the basketball. With the likes of Kristaps Porzingis and Langston Galloway starting to shine alongside Carmelo Anthony, the offense is improving bit by bit. Still, it goes without saying that the Knicks need assertive players. With all this talk about being unselfish and moving the ball in the triangle offense, some players have seemingly forgotten how to look for their own offense or finally take the ball to the hole when the time is right.
New York desperately needs a player they can rely on consistently as Anthony's right hand man. Varied contributions on the offensive end are good too, but it's important to know someone is always ready to assume such a role as well.
Just having Afflalo in the lineup (as a starter, it would seem) is going to be an added bonus for the Knicks. Mixing things up and inserting him alongside the team's other quality starters may add some versatility and make things easier for those around him. Fresh blood is good.
That said, the Knicks have been smart about inching the shooting guard back slowly but surely, and that approach shouldn't be disregarded once he actually hits the court.