DALLAS – Arron Afflalo is confused why Kurt Rambis claims there was a conversation about his demotion to the bench. Rambis is adamant he spoke with his disgruntled player.
Either way, it’s clear there is a standoff between a coach who wants a veteran to embrace a new role, and a player who doesn’t think it’s deserved. The rift is playing out embarrassingly through the media.
“There’s no breakdown in communication,” Afflalo said Wednesday, before the Knicks’ 91-89 loss to the Mavericks. “We never had the communication. …I don’t know why he would say there was a conversation.”
Don’t tell that to Rambis.
“It’s very clear,” the interim coach said. “We had a conversation (Tuesday).”
The backdrop to this exchange is that Afflalo − who scored just three points in 31 minutes against Dallas − owns an $ 8 million player option in his contract for next season and feels underappreciated. Rambis stated he spoke with Afflalo about his new role “not that long ago,” which is the meeting Afflalo has refuted.
Rambis claims he circled back on Tuesday for clarity.
“We had an extensive conversation. We talked about where there may have been some confusion and I took some responsibility if I wasn’t clear,” Rambis said. “I always want to be one of those coaches who knows a player’s perspective, one of those coaches that communicates well and knows where I’m coming from. They may not like what I have to say, but at least they know where I’m coming from. So if I wasn’t clear in the beginning as to why he was coming off the bench – and that was my fault – but now who knows?”
Rambis revealed Wednesday that the decision to supplant Afflalo in the lineup arrived after a “front office consensus,” meaning Phil Jackson had a hand in putting his former Laker, Sasha Vujacic, as the starting two-guard.
Arron Afflalo says Kurt Rambis never had a conversation with him about being demoted.
While the theory is being floated that the Knicks are purposefully alienating Afflalo to ensure he doesn’t pick up his player option, Rambis laid out the basketball reasons Wednesday for the change.
“It was something that we talked about when he was injured and wanting to move in that direction,” Rambis said. “For a while looking at our starting group and what we can do to energize our starting group. What adjustments could be made, changes we could make to get them playing with more pace, more execution, more ball movement.
“We feel it would really help us out when he embraces that role and decides that’s something he feels comfortable with,” the interim coach added. “But I get that he wants to start.”
Afflalo, who is closer with Carmelo Anthony than anybody else on the roster, doesn’t agree.
“They’re entitled to their opinion. That’s their opinion. That being said, I play for the Knicks and I’m just going to do my job to the best of my ability,” he said. “But again, that’s their opinion. That doesn’t necessarily mean that was the issue or I’m better-served in a different position. That’s just their opinion.”
Earlier Wednesday morning, Afflalo sent out a cryptic message on Instagram attached to a sullen selfie.
“Two years of just control what you can control right?. …While making the years of growth appear as if it has just stopped,” he wrote. “Yea ok. …10th year coming up and this time around that s**t won’t be forgotten.”
That was posted after the alleged meeting between Afflalo and Rambis.