The New York Knicks have nothing to lose at this point.
With 25 games remaining, they are already just playing out the schedule as a 123-112 loss to the Houston Rockets on Monday night dropped them to 17-40 on the year.
So why is interim head coach Mike Miller wasting the franchise’s time by trotting out players who are not likely going to be in the team’s long-term plans?
If you look at the stat sheet from Monday night’s loss, things looked innocent enough.
Rookie RJ Barrett, who figures to be the hope of this dysfunctional organization, led the team with 33:57 of playing time.
It was a solid night for the 19-year-old, who dropped 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting with six rebounds and three assists, which was sparked by a strong start.
In the first quarter alone, Barrett scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting while sinking a pair of three-pointers in 11:50 of playing time.
He then disappeared, going 2-of-7 from the field with five points in 18:44 between the second and third quarters.
It seemed as though that was enough for a demotion as he played just 3:23 in the fourth while seven other Knicks saw more playing time than him in the final 15 minutes.
Load management is one thing, but holding your future face of the franchise to just three minutes in the fourth quarter against one of the best teams in the NBA will do nothing for his development.
In what is expected to be his final months as head coach, Miller needs to make it clear that Julius Randle or Bobby Portis are not the marquee players of this team. That honor belongs to Barrett.
That’s why the Knicks drafted him third overall last summer.
Instead of trying to baby him or preserve him, loosen the reigns.
Have him lead the team in shot attempts every night. He shouldn’t be ranked 60th in the league in field-goal attempts this season.
Have him lead the team in minutes played every night.
Play him in the fourth quarter.
It’s the only way he is going to truly figure out how to become a star in New York; not limiting his playing time or facilitating the offense through anyone else on the team.