Al Iannazzone joined Newsday in January 2012 as the Knicks’ beat writer, after covering the NBA for 11
Jerian Grant finally is getting the minutes he should have gotten much earlier. All it took was Carmelo Anthony and other vets telling interim coach Kurt Rambis they would sacrifice their minutes so the young guys could play more, along with an injury to starting point guard Jose Calderon.
Many things have gone wrong for the Knicks or have been handled poorly, and one of the most glaring has been the use of the young guys.
It became clear long ago that the Knicks wouldn’t be in the playoffs, so the development of Grant, Kristaps Porzingis and Langston Galloway should have been priorities. But Rambis has been trying to win games and still is giving veterans heavy minutes.
The most puzzling move has been starting Sasha Vujacic at shooting guard. There’s a comfort level there, given that Vujacic played with the Lakers and knows the triangle offense better than anyone else on the team. But when Arron Afflalo was removed from the starting lineup, Grant should have been given more of a look.
Phil Jackson and Rambis know enough about Vujacic. They need to find out more about the rookie guard. They should have used him more, let him play through his mistakes and allowed him to learn from them.
It’s not just Grant, though. Porzingis looks like a future All-Star, but too many times before he injured his shoulder, he sat in the fourth quarter when he could have been playing, getting experience, having the offense run through him and growing as a go-to guy.
In Friday night’s win over the 76ers, Grant matched his career high with 16 points — including a clutch late three-pointer — and had six assists in a career-high 30 minutes. He’s played at least 23 minutes in five straight games after doing it four times in the previous 35. The quick hooks hurt the rookie’s confidence.
“You go in there for two minutes, you miss a shot, you come right out [and wonder], ‘Man, what’s going on here?’ ” Grant said. “One thing the guys told me is you can’t let people take your confidence. That happened to me earlier this season. As the games have gone on, I’ve been able to play with more confidence.’’
“When you get in there, you know you can just play a little bit,” Grant said. “You’re not looking over your shoulder every second after you make a mistake or miss a shot. You move on to the next play.”
Grant still has plenty to learn on both ends of the floor. He gets beaten too often on defense and doesn’t “organize” the team offensively, as Rambis likes to say.
In the last five games, Grant is averaging 11.2 points, 3.6 assists and 1.4 turnovers in 26.2 minutes. His averages before then were 4.8 points, 2.2 assists and 1.1 turnovers in 15.3 minutes.
And Grant’s confidence is back. He plans to take two or three weeks off after the season ends Tuesday before getting back in the gym to prepare for next season. He wants a shot at a starting role.
“I’m ready to get right back,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of things to work on if I want to be this team’s lead guard to start the season. I’ve got to get better.”
The Knicks signed Tony Wroten and want to see if he can help them. Grant and Wroten will play for the Knicks’ summer league team. But the Knicks will look to upgrade both backcourt positions this offseason. They have to.
Grant will get better and someday might prove he should start. He’s learning and improving from the minutes he’s getting now. But he should have been getting them much sooner.
Coaches deserving an interview
If Jackson goes out of his circle of trust and considers coaches other than Rambis, the top candidates should be Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks.
Van Gundy and Brooks guided teams to the NBA Finals. Thibodeau reached the Eastern Conference finals with the Bulls.
Van Gundy and Thibodeau are tough, defensive-minded coaches who get the most out of their players. The Knicks need that kind of discipline and structure. They’ve won one playoff series since Van Gundy resigned in 2001.
Brooks was 338-207 with the Thunder and could help lure Knicks targets Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. (The way Derek Fisher was supposed to.) Knicks assistant coaches Brian Keefe and Joshua Longstaff worked under Brooks in OKC.
Security changes in New Orleans
An usher lost her job and a New Orleans police officer no longer will work security detail for Pelicans games after a young boy ran on the court to hug Carmelo Anthony on March 28 in New Orleans, the Times-Picayune reported.
“It’s unfortunate,” Anthony said. “I never want to see nobody lose their job, but it was a safety situation. If it wasn’t a kid, it could have been a worse situation than what it was. But on the flip side of that, I never want to see anyone lose their job.”
The paper reported that the usher staff went through reinforcement training and watched video of Monica Seles being stabbed on the court during a tennis match in Germany. Two additional police officers have been hired.
The Warriors and Spurs will meet for the final time in the regular season Sunday night in San Antonio with plenty at stake.
The Warriors beat the Grizzlies, 100-99, on Saturday night and will finish the regular season vs. Memphis on Wednesday. The Warriors (71-9) need to win their final two games to finish with the best record in NBA history. If they go 1-1, they will match the Bulls’ 72-10 mark in 1995-96.
The Spurs are trying to become the first team to go undefeated at home for an entire season. They’re 39-0, with games against the Warriors and Thunder remaining.
Something has to give in San Antonio on Sunday.
Kobe’s final farewell
The Lakers have clinched the worst record in their 68-year history — not a great send-off for Kobe Bryant.
He will play his final game at home Wednesday against the Jazz. When Bryant was asked about be his dream finale, he said, “Win the championship. That isn’t happening, so there you go. That’s done. The dream’s done.”
But no one would be shocked if Bryant had one final big scoring night to end his illustrious career.