Arron Afflalo’s time with the Knicks went as fast as a New York minute.
Afflalo averaged 13 points per game on 44 percent shooting from the field and 38 percent from beyond the arc, but the Knicks struggled on and off the court during his one season in New York.
Coach Derek Fisher was involved in a love triangle and fight with Matt Barnes, his former teammate, over Gloria Govan, Barnes’ ex-wife, which became a distraction for the team early in the season. Fisher was also scrutinized as a coach for his handling of the triangle offense on the court. Fisher finished with a 23-31 record before he was fired and replaced by Kurt Rambis on an interim basis.
Afflalo started two games after Rambis was hired, but was then asked to come off the bench for all but one game for the remainder of the season. Afflalo struggled, averaging 8.6 points per game on 37 percent shooting from the field and 34 percent from beyond the arc.
After being moved to the bench by Rambis, and with New York setting its sights on Courtney Lee in free agency, Afflalo knew his time with the Knicks was up.
“It’s hard to get a genuine experience with anything when you haven’t had longevity or there are a lot of changes taking place, whether it’s changes with my individual role or with the coaching staff or the environment as a whole,” Afflalo told Basketball Insiders. “Six months is a short season when you’re not a playoff team and you’re going through a lot of changes, but they seem to be doing better now. I think as the core group, with Melo [Carmelo Anthony] and KP [Kristaps Porzingis], and the guys that they bring in continuing to get better, New York will be okay.”
When Afflalo and the Knicks agreed to a two-year deal with a second-year player option in the summer of 2015, it was considered a good move for both sides. The Knicks needed a starting-caliber shooting guard, and wanted to keep cap space available for the following summer when the salary cap would rise. For Afflalo, coming off a midseason trade and playoff appearance with the Portland Trail Blazers, it was a chance to be more of a focal point in the offense and earn a higher salary if he chose to opt out of the second year of his deal.
Afflalo opted out of the final year on his Knicks contract and agreed to a two-year, $25 million deal with the Sacramento Kings during free agency this past summer.
“I knew we kind of had a new team coming,” Afflalo told Basketball Insiders. “I was a fan of [Kings coach Dave] Joerger and the way he coached in Memphis. Just happy to be a little bit closer to home, and Sacramento was one of the early teams that reached out, and they won. It just felt like a good fit at the time.”
Afflalo was born in Los Angeles, California and attended Centennial High School in Compton before attending UCLA.
“The further along you get in your career, obviously, you still want to perform well as an individual, but you just become more and more enamored with winning. I’ve known Rudy [Gay] for a long time. Cousins has been recognized as one of the best centers, if not the best center, in the league, so I thought it would be a good opportunity. Plus, at the time, Darren [Collison] and Ty [Lawson] were considering being the point guards here, and I was familiar with the point guard situation, too. It all seemed like a positive situation.”
Sacramento has garnered as many headlines for behavior off the court as on it. Collison was suspended for the first eight games of the season after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery. Gay informed the Kings he will opt out of the final year of his contract this upcoming summer and will explore his options, The Vertical reported.
“We have a lot to work on, but we have a lot of potential,” Afflalo told Basketball Insiders. “We’re a veteran team, we’ve got some good guys on the team, we just have to continue to learn how to get the best out of everyone and learn how to play well together. A lot of the team, in the past, has really been centered around DeMarcus and Rudy, and now it’s just about bringing everybody else along so that we can really get over the hump.”
The hump Afflalo referred to is qualifying for the playoffs, a task that’s eluded Sacramento since 2006.
I asked Afflalo if Sacramento has the talent to get over the hump he alluded to and become a playoff team for the first time in a decade.
“Yeah, no question,” Afflalo replied. “There’s probably, at this point in the season, three elite teams in the West, and those teams you can compete with as well, but on a night to night basis we pretty much have a chance to win the game as any other team does. We just have to get out there and play.”
While Cousins and Gay will carry much of the scoring load for Sacramento on a nightly basis, the team will need the backcourt of Afflalo, Collison, and Lawson to supplement the attack on a consistent basis.
For Afflalo, his homecoming has been an adjustment period.
“I’m trying to get over myself a little bit and just be a part of a team and play to win,” Afflalo told Basketball Insiders. “I know I’m capable of large scoring nights or playing defense or facilitating. I’m capable of a lot of different things, but as I get older I’m really just trying to get over myself and get more enamored with winning and trying to play well when needed. Whatever the coach feels like is best for the team, just try to accept that.”
Joerger is looking to find the right combinations to maximize Afflalo’s production on the court.
“He’s a good player, he’s got a lot of experience, he’s a good pro and a pretty good defender,” Joerger said. “He’s just trying to find his spot with what we’re doing and playing off of DeMarcus, Rudy, Darren and Ty.”
If Sacramento wants to get over the hump and make the playoffs for the first time in a decade, the hometown man must be a big part of the equation going forward alongside Cousins and Gay.
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