As Papa Bear Seth pointed out in his recap of Sunday's loss to the Pacers, head coach Kurt Rambis leaned heavily on the veteran backcourt of Arron Afflalo and Sasha Vujacic in the fourth quarter at the expense of young'uns like Jerian Grant and Cleanthony Early. Afflalo in particular played the final 19 minutes of the game. Surely the level of trust shown in crunch can be used by the coach as a way to smooth over his contentious decision to remove the veteran shooting guard from the lineup and OH MY GOD RAMBIS WHAT ARE YOU SAYING NOW???
"Him coming off the bench adds nothing but value to him," Rambis said. "Because whereas some teams may not be looking at him if he decides to opt out of his contract, because they might not have a guy in his position coming off the bench, well they start to go, okay, he's got the right attitude to come off the bench. And now they can add some productivity for him. So I just think the more versatile the players are, the better they are around the league."
Sweet Jesus, there's a lot to unpack here. Arron Afflalo's coach just said his demotion to the Knicks' second unit will help boost his value if he were to opt out, as it showcases not only his versatility but his willingness to come off the bench. He also seems to imply that ...
1. Afflalo is definitely opting out.
2. If he opts out, he won't be a Knick.
3. Some teams will only be interested in him as a bench player.
Afflalo is clearly still salty about being relegated to the bench so close to free agency. Starters almost invariably earn more money than bench players. Even if Rambis is being sincere -- and I happen to agree 100% that demonstrating a willingness to play the 6th man role would greatly increase the demand for Afflalo on the open market -- why the hell would he say this in a postgame press conference?
To his credit, Afflalo responded like a professional -- albeit a professional who still wants to make it perfectly clear that he isn't being used properly:
"Me being in my 10th year and being 30 years old and having some experience in this game, I think I have a good feel for what I can bring to a team," he said. "Sometimes you can have a difference of opinion in what's in the best interest of the team. I have no quarrels about any role as long as it's in the best interest of the team."
I've earned the reputation as the site's chief Afflalo hater over the past few months. I pray he opts out, and incidents like these make that scenario ever more likely. But he deserves better than a never-ending stream of Kurt Rambis pseudo-lectures through the media. You keep playing the guy during the most critical moments of the game, Kurt: Maybe just focus on that. It's not who starts; it's who finishes. This shit is Ego Management 101.
Please don't hire this guy back, Knicks.