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Jeff Hornacek’s Time Is Running Out

The Knicks are treading water, rolling out a team with a coach that seems to have little interest in playing the young bucks. Is the clock on Hornacek ticking towards midnight?

 

NOBODY WOULD FAULT JEFF HORNACEK IF THE KNICKS PLAYED THEIR YOUNG PLAYERS AND LOST BADLY.

However, this hasn’t happened through three games. Instead, Hornacek has decided to play Enes Kanter, Michael Beasley, Courtney Lee, and to the grave disappointment of many (including the other variable of Frank Ntilikina’s injury), Ramon Sessions and Ron Baker. The Frankenstein roster construction is no fault of Hornacek’s. Nevertheless, the Knicks cannot compete with the current rotation Hornacek feels obligated to play: Kyle O’Quinn is the first big man off the bench, with Beasley and Baker usually following closely behind. This isn’t a recipe for success in any metric.

If New York, and Hornacek, wants to be successful, then they need to introduce their youth movement to legitimate playing time. Whether you believe in the long-term viability of Willy Hernangómez, Damyean Dotson, and the injured Ntilikina, or not, these players cannot find any rhythm hugging the sidelines.

Instead, Coach Hornacek has figured to find big minutes for Kanter (far from old at 25 years, though), O’Quinn, Sessions, and on Tuesday, Jarrett Jack.

It’s really, really valid to say Ron Baker and Sessions aren’t the answer to the rebuilding Knicks. I think, crucially, that’s not the point though. The point is to play the young guys and develop some sort of chemistry where Ntilikina, Kristaps Porzingis, Dotson, Tim Hardaway Jr., Hernangómez, and others are on the same timeline. Horancek has failed to do this three games into a known losing season. Failure to properly develop these players will only continue the vicious cycle of poor development of draft picks by the Knicks.

The Knicks are failing Porzingis, too, by letting him play with passive veterans who won’t be on the team for much longer. New York cannot keep swapping young guys they may not really like for more vets that won’t make the team better in the future. That’s called the Derrick Rose Trade; in other words, sending Hardaway Jr. away for the draft rights to Jerian Grant, who they, of course, traded after a single mostly unimpressive season for the expiring contract of Derrick Rose.

 

Photo: Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman

 

Kanter falls directly under the Rose conundrum. The Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony for mostly rocks, which included the unfriendly contract of Enes Kanter. As great as a person Enes appears to be, Kanter doesn’t win the Knicks games on his own. Much like Rose, his perceived talents have a negative impact on the rest of the team. While he soaks up time at the center position, Willy is left out to dry. This strategy is simply not in the best interest for the long-term success of the team.

A lot of the blame falls on Phil Jackson, of course. But where he failed, Jeff Hornacek needs to devote time and resources towards figuring out which young players can be the building blocks towards a squad with the right skills to be a contender.

Dotson (8), Willy (15), and Frank (8) have played a combined total of 31 minutes. While they sit on the pine, the Knicks are losing games. Not only are they losing, but the players that are garnering big minutes apparently don’t know the team’s schemes and plays:

“There’s [sic] plays that we go over in practice, if we’re messing up in practice and we’re messing up in games we got to understand these plays and get in those positions to where we’re executing and being sharp. If we miss shots, we miss shots. That’s part of the game. But not being in the right position takes away a shot for your teammates. We got to learn the plays.” (via Ian Begley/ESPN)

That’s not exactly an illuminating endorsement for the coaching staff or even some teammates. And what did Coach Hornacek have to say about that?:

 

 

What is a coach in a difficult spot like this to do? The culture of losing permeates throughout the Knicks organization, and it’s not on one person to steer the ship. While Jackson signing Joakim Noah and ruining Anthony’s trade value certainly hurt the team, so did President Steve Mills’ $71 million offer sheet for Hardaway Jr. The team’s success in the future is in jeopardy because of decisions in the present. It’s going to be a long time before New York can sustain a winning club, but decisions made by Hornacek and the coaching staff to put veterans like Lee, O’Quinn, and Sessions in front of starving youth is a terribly irresponsible move for a coach that needs to prioritize collaborating Porzingis with the team’s core of the future.

Thus far, Hornacek has seemingly dug into his position of burying Willy in the depth chart, making it nearly impossible to evaluate his future with the Knicks. If New York wants to separate with the Spaniard, fine; let’s figure that out after analyzing a sizable collection of data and knowledge once he’s given a fair shake. Hornacek has failed to showcase the Knicks’ youth so far, and in the small sample size with Dotson and Ntilikina, we’ve seen the head coach follow a similar trajectory of wasting Knicks fans’ time sleepwalking through a pitiful season with faces that will not be with the franchise in the long-run.


Reid Goldsmith, managing editor

 

 

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Managing Editor of The Knicks Wall. Still not over the ’94 Finals. Andy Bernard levels of Cornell love.

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