Carmelo Anthony has sacrificed his shots and his scoring this season, and now he’s sacrificing his playing time.
In a strong show of leadership, Anthony went to fellow starters Jose Calderon and Robin Lopez to see if they would be willing to give up minutes so younger players and other reserves could get more game action for the rest of the season. The trio then met with Kurt Rambis on Tuesday in Dallas to tell him their thoughts, and the interim coach agreed.
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“I asked Jose and [Lopez] what they felt about that whole idea of if you’re playing 35 minutes, how about playing 30 minutes and spreading the minutes out and let some other guys get opportunities out there,” Anthony said after a 91-89 loss to Dallas on Wednesday night. “They were all for it and we went to Kurt and we talked to Kurt about it.
“It’s more of getting those guys involved in what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to create and keep on moving forward. They need to be out there, they need playing time, they need playing experience. You can practice and do drills, one-on-one things all day long, but you’re going to get that experience playing in the games.”
This is another indication that Anthony is committed to the Knicks and to making them better. He said he never did anything like this before but that it’s important for rookie Jerian Grant and second-year player Langston Galloway to develop.
It’s also important for the organization to see what it has in Grant, Galloway, Derrick Williams, Kevin Seraphin and Kyle O’Quinn. Williams can opt out this summer and Seraphin and Galloway will be free agents. O’Quinn, who is under contract for three more years, has been in and out of the rotation.
“We’d like to cut down on guys’ minutes that we feel secure with,’’ Rambis said, “ . . . to open up more minutes for other guys.”
Rambis said he spoke to team president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills and they were all on board. Rambis started Grant in the second half against Dallas after Calderon left with a bruised quadriceps. Grant had six points, three assists, three steals and no turn overs in 23 minutes. Williams started for injured Kristaps Porzingis, and O’Quinn and Seraphin played together off the bench.
It’s surprising that it took the players speaking up to make this move and that management didn’t try to speed up the young players’ development. But Rambis has said that minutes are earned and that he’s still trying to win games. He’s been starting an older backcourt of Calderon (34) and Sasha Vujacic (32).
The Knicks (30-46) were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday and have six games left.
“I’ve never done it before,” Anthony said. “I’ve never been in that situation. Usually the coach says we’re going to cut your minutes coming down the stretch . . . Don’t get me wrong, I still would like to be out there playing and competing, but at this point, if we can build guys like Jerian and Langston and [Williams] and [O’Quinn] and just give them that opportunity they wouldn’t have had or haven’t had in the past, I think it’s good for the morale of the team and for their confidence.
“Sometimes in a situation like this, you can lose your confidence, and that’s something you don’t want.”
Grant is excited about the opportunity. Rambis wants him to organize the offense better and not get lost on defense.
“All season my minutes have been so inconsistent, it’s tough to get into a rhythm,” said Grant, who is averaging 4.8 points and 2.2 assists in 15.4 minutes. “Hopefully, I can do a little something and prove that I can be a starting guard on this team.’’