This season has been a confusing one for the New York Knicks.
At 18-18, they’re clearly not a championship-contending club, but they also haven’t been a complete failure.
One of the most baffling aspects of the team has been how coach Jeff Hornacek has handed out rotational minutes to his frontcourt players. Kristaps Porzingis has averaged 32.1 minutes per game, but fellow starter Enes Kanter has only averaged 25.5, opening the door for Kyle O’Quinn (16.5) to earn consistent playing time.
Others like Michael Beasley (18.0) and Doug McDermott (24.1) have earned frontcourt minutes in small-ball lineups as well.
Joakim Noah and Willy Hernangomez have been left out.
After averaging 18.4 minutes per game over 72 games for the Knicks in his rookie season last year, Hernangomez has played in just 15 contests this season, logging just 10.6 minutes per game. As a result, he has averaged just 5.3 points and 3.4 rebounds.
After some strong performances towards the end of last season, the young Spaniard was seemingly one of the building blocks of the future of the team beside Porzingis. But then Carmelo Anthony was traded for Enes Kanter, who essentially blocked Hernangomez’s path at substantial playing time.
Sitting on the bench has had a negative impact on the young center, who is clearly unhappy with the current situation.
"It's been really hard for me,'' Hernangomez said, via Marc Berman of NY Post. "The only thing I know is I work hard every day and try to be ready when they need me. I'm glad to support teammates on the bench because we're winning now. But it's been really hard for me. I've played 15 games all season. It's hard. But I'm working hard to be ready. I don't like my situation. When I have the chance to be on court I'll try to use it.’'
Although Kanter is a more advanced and skilled player than Hernangomez at this point in their respective careers, Hornacek’s willingness to give O’Quinn playing time over the young center has been a bit surprising.
"I want to play. I want to play. I really want to be here. I love New York. KP is here. But I want to play," Hernangomez admitted. "I'm young, it's my second year. I have to play to get better. I've been working really hard every day. Everything I do is 100 percent."
Noah has also had a tough time riding the pine.
"It's been hard for me and all of our guys,'' Hernangomez said. "We have one of the best team of big guys in the league. KOQ, Enes, Joakim. Other teams don't have really big guys. It's been hard. It's hard for Jo and me. Something is going to happen for sure. Right now we're winning. We have great chemistry but you never know.’’
If the Knicks end up trading Kanter or O’Quinn, it would presumably open up playing time for Hernangomez. If not, he might have to wait until next season to make more of an impact.
While the second-year center didn’t go so far as to request a trade, he certainly made his dissatisfaction very clear to the hungry New York media.