New York Knicks: Jeff Hornacek Must Immediately Embrace the Youth
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - OCTOBER 19: Jeff Hornacek of the New York Knicks yells instructions to his team during the first half of a NBA game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on October 19, 2017 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)

New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek‘s inability to play his young talent hurts the franchise in the short and long term.

It is no secret that the New York Knicks are in the throes of a rebuilding season in which they need to develop their young talent. Everybody seems to know this. Everybody except Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek.

In New York’s season opener against the Thunder on Thursday night, Hornacek opted to give big minutes to his veterans.

Meanwhile, the Knicks core group of young talent outside of Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. struggled to see the floor.

Willy Hernangomez, fresh off an NBA All-Rookie First Team season, failed to check in until there was slightly under four minutes left in the game. In other words, Hernangomez, despite being an invaluable piece of the next Knicks core, did not see any meaningful minutes in the team’s first regular season game.

Despite Hernangomez’s 62 percent field goal percentage in the post, the second-year man must improve defensively to stay on the court. This is no secret.

However, the only way for Hernangomez to pair his impeccable post game with an improved defensive awareness is for him to see minutes.

Instead, Hornacek decided to give Hernangomez’s minutes to newly acquired forward Enes Kanter, a player remarkably similar to Hernangomez. Both players are able to score the ball with ease but struggle to defend their position. The only difference between the two is Hernangomez is in the long-term plans of the Knicks.

But even in the short term benching Hernangomez in favor of Kanter did not make sense.

Kanter was routinely punished underneath by Steven Adams, who finished with 12 points on the night. Kanter finished the game with -21 plus/minus in 22 minutes.

He also did this:

Meanwhile, Knicks first-round draft choice Frank Ntilikina, arguably New York’s most critical piece outside of Porzingis in their rebuild, played only five minutes in the entire first half. He didn’t see any playing time in the second half until a little under three minutes left in a 20-point blowout loss.

Ntilikina, viewed as a tremendous project, needs to see action in order to work on virtually his entire offensive game, but more importantly simply adjust to the speed of the NBA. This was clearly evident in the rookie’s limited minutes.

Ntilikina’s struggled mightily offensively in his debut, missing the rim entirely on his first two NBA field goal attempts. While nerves certainly had to do with Ntilikina’s struggles, there is no denying that the next cornerstone in the Knicks’ rebuild must see more minutes to grow offensively.

Instead, Hornacek opted to play 31-year-old Ramon Sessions over his young point guard. The veteran Sessions received 21 minutes compared to Ntilikina’s eight minutes.

While the reason for Ntilikina’s lack of minutes could be due to a nagging knee injury he suffered before the season, he told reporters before the game his knee was not

Despite receiving big minutes Sessions failed to give the Knicks valuable playing time. The veteran guard scored three points, netted one assist and was tied for the worst plus/minus on the night, 23.

Damyean Dotson, New York’s second-round draft choice, also failed to see minutes until late in the fourth quarter.

The Knicks hope Dotson, who hit more than three threes a game while shooting 44 percent as a senior at Houston, can develop into a valuable three-and-d rotation piece. This simply can not be accomplished if he fails to see the floor.

Ramon Sessions, Kyle O’Quinn, Lance Thomas and to a lesser extent Enes Kanter, are on this Knicks roster to mentor the team’s young players.

They are not under contract to log more than twenty minutes per game, and they are certainly not expected to remain on the court during the fourth quarter in a 20-point blowout.

Yet this is exactly what took place on Thursday night in Oklahoma City.

The New York Knicks are one game down in their 2017-18 campaign. Veterans are going to see the floor every game, however, this can not happen at the expense of the team’s young talent.

The Knicks’ next game will take place at Madison Square Garden against the Pistons on Saturday night. Hernangomez, Ntilikina and Dotson should all see an increase of playing time in the team’s home opener.

Charles is a sophomore at Pennsylvania State University from Long Island, New York, majoring in broadcast journalism. As a member of Penn State's CommRadio, the official radio station of the College of Communications, Charles has written various articles covering Penn State football and basketball. In addition to writing, Charles also co-hosts Empire State College, the only New York sports talkshow on campus.