DeAndre Jordan provides veteran leadership for the New York Knicks, but for the rest of the season, we won’t see him serve as a leader on the floor. Jordan has not played in each of New York’s last three games, with David Fizdale opting to put promising rookie big man Mitchell Robinson in the starting lineup instead.
It all makes sense in the context of this season — the Knicks are looking towards the future, Robinson looks like he has the potential to be really good, and Jordan is a midseason acquisition who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. But saying that a player should sit back and let a younger dude play and actually having that happen are two totally different things.
As we learned from Steve Popper of Newsday, though, Jordan was willing to give up his spot, and barring something drastic happening, we shouldn’t expect to see the veteran center again in the Knicks’ final three games of the year.
For most of that time, at least he still was a starter, but last week, after talking with Fizdale, he ceded his starting job to rookie Mitchell Robinson. In uniform with no injury, he essentially has become a highly paid assistant coach. He has not played at all in the last three games and won’t unless the need is drastic.
“I don’t have any more suits to dress out, so I definitely wanted to wear my uniform,” Jordan joked. “When I’m wearing my uniform, I’m still locked into the game. It was a very tough back-and-forth conversation because I love to play basketball, love to compete. But obviously the development of these guys is very important.”
“We had a few conversations,‘’ he said of Fizdale. “There was definitely some back-and-forth. He knows how much I love to play and how much I want to compete. Overall, we came to the decision together. Everybody thought it was best for the young guys to, like I keep saying, see these guys play and play in bulk minutes.”
There’s assuredly an element of long-term thinking to this from Jordan — getting hurt down the stretch of a lost season for the Knicks when he’s about to become a free agent would be brutal. But Jordan has always been praised for being a great teammate and seems excited about the opportunity to help all the team’s youngsters grow over the final few games of the year, so it’s a cool gesture that he’s stepping aside and essentially acting as another coach.