SALT LAKE CITY − The Knicks are not officially “Falling for Lonzo Ball” but with the playoffs an unreachable goal, head coach Jeff Hornacek informed Carmelo Anthony today that he’ll reduce the All Star forward’s workload over the final 12 games.
“He mentioned today that he’s going to start shortening minutes,” Anthony said following Tuesday’s practice on the University of Utah campus. We’ll see what happens.”
Anthony played just 26 minutes in Monday’s loss to the Clippers and sat the fourth quarter. With the Knicks nearing playoff elimination, Anthony figured that his role could change over the final month of the season.
“I’ve been coming to an understanding with the situation,” he said. “Yeah I understand.”
The Knicks are not purposely tanking to improve their draft lottery position − at least not yet − but they have unintentionally improved their odds of landing the top overall spot. At 27-43, they entered Tuesday tied for the sixth worst record in the league. They are just a game ahead of Philadelphia.
The Nets, Lakers and Suns currently own the NBA’s three worst records and it is nearly impossible for the Knicks to crack that elite group. Phoenix currently has 22 wins. UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball is projected to be drafted either first or second overall.
Hornacek used his regular starting unit, along with Willy Hernangómez at center, against the Clippers. That will likely be the same lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Jazz. The following night the Knicks play in Portland on a back-to-back which would give Hornacek an opportunity to possibly rest Anthony for that game. The Knicks have just one remaining back-to-back after Thursday.
“That’s not (anything) that we’ve discussed so far as of yet,” Anthony said of missing the second night of a back-to-back.
ESPN reported that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sent a memo to team owners on Monday where he called the practice of teams resting marquee players “an extremely significant issue for our league.” According to ESPN, Silver notified teams that the issue will be addressed at the board of governors meeting April 6 in New York.
Silver is mainly referring to teams like the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers who rested their top players in a nationally televised game. Coincidentally, last December the Knicks encouraged Anthony, who was bothered by leg soreness, to sit a game against the Cavs. It was the second night of a back-to-back but Anthony, despite not being at 100 percent, elected to play because the game was being television nationally.
“It’s up to the team, it’s up to the individual,” Anthony said of players resting. “I’m different because I’m 14 years in. If the team decides to rest me a night, I’m not going to fight it. But I’m not going to say I’m sitting out tonight. It all depends on the personnel of the team, what they’re trying to do and their overall plan. I’m not against guys sitting out. The problem is TV games, ratings, and money. It’s a money game.”
Anthony would prefer to play in the final 12 games, especially since his season will end without a playoff appearance for the fourth straight year. He won’t play another meaningful game until next October.
“I’ve come to grips with that,” he said. “I’m at peace with that. I’m not happy about it. I’m not satisfied about it. But I’m at peace with it.”