Knicks: Arron Afflalo Expects Steady Improvement


The New York Knicks may have lost in heartbreaking fashion, but they were big winners against the Charlotte Hornets. Kristaps Porzingis proved to be a threat in clutch situations and Carmelo Anthony finally found his rhythm.

Perhaps most important of all, injured shooting guard Arron Afflalo returned from a nagging hamstring injury.

Afflalo played 28 minutes during his season debut against the Hornets. He tallied 12 points, six rebounds and an assist, including a pair of clutch baskets during the fourth quarter.

Despite his playing well, Afflalo told Marc Berman of The New York Post that he expects to play significantly better against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"“I haven’t played since training camp,’’ said Afflalo, whose last action was Oct. 21 in the preseason finale in Boston. “Mentally, you feel you can take on the world until you get out there and you’re short on oxygen. It was good for a first game, getting tired battling with those guys in a close game. But I expect myself to be much better Friday.’’“It was good in the first quarter. I had a month to prepare for the first quarter,’’ Afflalo said. “The second quarter was tough.’’"

That’s all to be expected of a player who hardly played in the preseason and missed eight regular season games.

Afflalo is discussing his debut in a manner that suggests he struggled. Considering it was his first game of 2015-16, that’s hardly the case; he shot 6-of-13 from the field, albeit with a mark of 0-for-3 from beyond the arc.

Finding his range and improving his defensive consistency will simply be a matter of finding his legs.

Nicolas Batum torched Afflalo and the Knicks for 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Afflalo clearly wasn’t the only man to defend Batum, but he was no more successful than his teammates.

As Carmelo Anthony told Berman, however, Afflalo’s return to the rotation proved extremely beneficial for the Knicks’ execution of the Triangle Offense.

"“It actually helped — a guy who’s another threat,’’ Carmelo Anthony said. “Offensively, first game back, he made some shots, missed a couple. A rhythm thing with him getting back in the flow.’’"

Head coach Derek Fisher agreed:

"“He has a pretty good presence on the floor when he is out there,’’ coach Derek Fisher said of Afflalo. “He is physical on both ends, and we are hoping that he continues to get better and stronger. He helped us tonight and hopefully he can get some rest tomorrow and be ready for [Friday].’’"

The question is, how will Afflalo fare moving forward?

All eyes will be on his hamstring, and fairly so. Afflalo is an undoubtedly vital piece to the puzzle for the Knicks, but he’s already made an unsuccessful return from the hamstring injury.

That’s what caused him to spend a second stint on the injury list during the preseason.

Fortunately for the Knicks, Afflalo appeared to be back at full strength against the Hornets. He’ll still need to shed some rust, but he’s already performing at a relatively high level—specifically in the clutch.

Afflalo used his underrated ball-handling to create space on a mid-range jumper with 1:13 on the clock. It was his second consecutive game-tying field goal; he’d already crashed the boards and put a shot back in with 1:51 on the clock.

If Afflalo can provide New York with that type of clutch presence moving forward, it may actually succeed in closing out games.