New York Knicks interim coach Kurt Rambis spoke with guard Arron Afflalo about benching him over the past several games despite Afflalo saying otherwise.
As of Monday, Afflalo had not discussed the move to the bench with Rambis, according to the New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy, but Rambis said Tuesday they had discussed the transition, according to the New York Post's Marc Berman.
Afflalo is expected to continue to be a bench player for the remainder of the season even though the Knicks are eliminated from the playoffs. Rambis said he does not plan to change the lineup with such little time remaining this season.
Afflalo, 30, has averaged 13.3 points and 33.9 minutes per game through 64 games this year.
Things can only be so right if a team owns a 30-45 record. There seems to be trouble in paradise, and it makes sense that such tension surrounds Rambis' most controversial decision as interim head coach.
Leading up to the eventual benching of Afflalo, there's no doubt his shooting was more streaky than consistent. But to be fair, the shooting guard was battling a nagging injury all the while. Judging his body of work donning orange and blue beforehand, Afflalo was undeniably the Knicks' most reliable secondary scorer. Not only was he an efficient shooter, but he was quite effective as well.
Afflalo is the kind of player who recognizes his strengths and utilizes his talents relatively well; he knows how to beat defenders, where to pick his spots, etc. He's been an intelligent player, and it showed. That has given him a leg up on the still developing Kristaps Porzingis, and provided the Knicks with a hot hand to turn to in the prior absences of Carmelo Anthony. Afflalo's a vet who can handle such pressure. His value to this team is clear.
That said, the decision to slide him to the second unit in favor of a more familiar face in Sasha Vujacic is Rambis' to make. It's his right as coach. Whether that goes on to sink the Knicks or influence the team's decision in whether or not to retain him next season remains to be seen.
Still, whatever his decision is/was, it must be communicated. Players and coaches need to be on the same page, especially when a relatively significant change is made. Rambis has been hesitant to shift Jose Calderon out of the starting lineup, so his comfort in swapping Afflalo, a previously reliable player, for the otherwise ineffective Vujacic, is surprising.
Not explaining such a decision to Afflalo, who holds a player option for next season, is proof Rambis dropped the ball one way or the other.
Afflalo is averaging 9.6 points on just under 40 percent shooting from the field as a reserve, so clearly the decision hasn't paid off.