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As Knicks can’t close game vs. Mavericks, Arron Afflalo says Kurt Rambis never spoke to him about demotion

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) has the

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) has the ball stolen by New York Knicks forwards Derrick Williams (23) and Carmelo Anthony (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 30, 2016, in Dallas. Credit: AP/ LM Otero

DALLAS — Arron Afflalo and Kurt Rambis see things and remember them very differently.

Afflalo has denied three different times, including Wednesday morning, that Rambis talked to him about recently going from starter to reserve. Rambis said they had spoken and that they had “an extensive conversation” Tuesday to clear up any “confusion.”

The Knicks haven’t been on the same page much this season and there is a definite disconnect between player and coach.

“We had an extensive conversation (Tuesday),” Rambis said before the Knicks lost, 91-89, to the Mavericks. “I always want to be one of those coaches that communicates well. So if I wasn’t clear in the beginning as to why he would be coming off the bench that was my fault.

“But now he knows so that’s pretty much the end of it. He understands my and the organization’s perspective.”

Carmelo Anthony scored 31, but he missed two shots and committed a turnover in the final 26.9 seconds with the Knicks (30-46) down 90-89. After a Raymond Felton free throw with 8.7 seconds left, Langston Galloway missed a long three-pointer at the buzzer.

Afflalo started the first 56 games he was able to play but has come off the bench in eight of the past nine. Rambis said “there’s a consensus in the front office” that Afflalo gives the Knicks better balance as a backup, so team president Phil Jackson had a hand in this move.

Rambis has started veteran shooting guard Sasha Vujacic, whom he coached when he was a Lakers assistant, because he thinks he plays with more “energy,” “speed” and “a higher level of activity.”

The Knicks signed Afflalo to a two-year, $16 million contract last July that he can opt out of this summer. It would be stunning if he doesn’t opt out and look elsewhere, which could be what the Knicks want to free up more money for free agency.

“I think that for our situation, and there’s consensus in the front office, we feel that he’s somebody who can really make a major contribution for us coming off the bench,” Rambis said. “I talked to him about making a statement when he comes in at both ends of the floor.”

Afflalo says that conversation never happened.

“There was no breakdown in communication,” Afflalo said. “We never had the conversation. But there was no breakdown in communication. Coaches are entitled to do what’s best for the team. From that standpoint as a player you have to respect that, you have to do what’s asked of you.

“I don’t know why he would say there was a conversation. I never had a conversation about that except for at the Laker game. Beyond that, it’s OK. Players go through it all the time. It is what it is.”

Afflalo posted a serious picture of himself on Instagram Tuesday night — presumably after meeting with Rambis. Afflalo wrote, “Two years of control what you can control right? While making years of growth appears as if it has just stopped . . . Yea OK. 10th year coming up and this time around that (stuff) won’t be forgotten.”

“It didn’t mean much to be honest,” he said. “It’s just a statement to myself . . . I just plan on growing next year.”

Afflalo came in averaging 13.3 points overall, but just 9.6 as a reserve. He shot 1-for-7 and scored three points with three turnovers in 31 minutes Wednesday night.

He lost his starting job when he suffered a strained abdominal against Denver on March 8 that kept him out of two games. Afflalo returned March 13 against the Lakers and said he was told he would be coming off the bench and he believed it was “for that game.”

Rambis said “there’s no thought to putting him back in” the starting lineup, and “it’s something he’s going to have adjust to and figure it out.”

“People could have their opinion of what they feel you bring to a team and that’s their opinion,” Afflalo said. “My opinion may be different. For now it’s about the team, it’s about being professional. It’s about doing your job.”

As for his future plans, Afflalo said it wasn’t the time to discuss it.

“It’s one of those things you assess at the end of the year,” he said. “I don’t like discussing personal stuff right now. It’s definitely about the team.”

New York Sports