Not everyone is thrilled with the Knicks’ youth movement.
Jarrett Jack and Courtney Lee, who were workhorses for the Knicks in the first half of the season, are now seeing their roles severely diminished as coach Jeff Hornacek gives more time to his 25-and-under backcourt corps of Emmanuel Mudiay, Frank Ntilikina, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Both players said that Hornacek talked to them before the Knicks game in Orlando last Thursday, their first after the All-Star break, and told them the younger players were going to get more time. Neither, however, realized that the change would be this dramatic.
Jack, 34, had been the Knicks’ starting point guard since the fourth game of the season. He has not played a single minute, however, in the Knicks’ three post-All-Star break games. While Jack stressed that he understood it was the “coach’s decision” to play whomever he wants, he did not rule out exploring his options before Thursday’s waiver deadline for players to be eligible for the playoffs. Jack signed a one-year deal with the Knicks in September.
“People have brought it up to me,” Jack said Monday after not playing in the Knicks’ loss to the Warriors. “It wasn’t something I was super thinking when the situation changed. But if it happens, it happens. I try to control what I can control. Right now this is my role for the moment. I’ll try to be as good at that as I was at the other one.
“I’ve never done it before, to jump from one team in the middle of the season to a playoff squad. I know that’s what other guys have done. To be honest, I don’t really know. Maybe I do need to sit down and look at a list of what my best possible options are. But as of today I’m with the Knicks and want to help in any capacity I can.”
Lee, Jack’s backcourt partner in the starting lineup for the majority of the season, still has a starting spot. His minutes, however, have been curtailed. Lee, who is averaging 31 minutes a game and a career-high 12.7 points, went scoreless in a season-low 11 minutes against Golden State. In the two previous games, he was on the court for just 16 and 14 minutes.
“As a player, competitor, it’s definitely tough,” said Lee, who is 32 and has two years left on his contract. “I’m not the coach. I’m not in the front office. If that’s the decision they’re making, they’re going with, all I can do is be professional and control what I can control. That’s coming in every day and working hard, be positive.”