Since becoming interim head coach of the Knicks in early February, Kurt Rambis has been gunning for a permanent spot. Despite the Knicks having almost no chance to make the playoffs when he took over, he has been trying to ride his veterans to wins instead of giving the young players on the roster room to play. In the loss to the Mavericks on Wednesday, for example, Carmelo Anthony played 34 minutes despite the game being meaningless for New York.
That's not that bad for Anthony, who has averaged over 37 minutes per game under Rambis after clocking fewer than 35 under Derek Fisher when the Knicks were actually in playoff contention. He's not the only one who has seen his playing time climb. Jose Calderon has averaged almost two more minutes per game under Rambis, and Robin Lopez nearly five more minutes.
Rambis' late-season rotations have become so irrational that the only people who can stop them are the older players themselves.
Rambis said several of the veterans (Melo, Calderon, Lopez) talked to him about cutting their mins to open time for the younger players.— Jonah Ballow (@jonahballow) March 31, 2016
This late in the season, teams with nothing to gain often shut down veterans, even against their will, to preserve them. In New York, the players themselves had to convince the head coach to cut their minutes. That is unheard of and, frankly, hilarious. Rambis reportedly needed to clear the decision with his superiors before acting to reduce the wear-and-tear of players under contract for next season and give valuable experience to youngsters like Jerian Grant.
Rambis also discussed lowering mins for vets to increase mins for young players with Phil Jackson & Steve Mills. All in agreement.— Jonah Ballow (@jonahballow) March 31, 2016
To be fair to Rambis, maybe he had orders from Phil Jackson to win as much as possible to make the first-round draft pick the Knicks owe the Raptors as low as possible. Yet that would actually be much worse than a coach with a .283 career record trying to get a few wins to make his resume look better. It's unlikely Jackson would push such a short-term view of thinking, particularly given the health of Anthony.
Regardless, it's odd that it took an intervention by the players and a meeting between an interim coach and management to accomplish something that happens naturally in most other organizations. Nothing is ever normal with the Knicks.