Mike D’Antoni insists there’s no rift between him and Larry Hughes.
The usually affable D’Antoni hemmed and hawed for almost 30 seconds yesterday when asked about his former starting shooting guard who was replaced in the starting rotation by Nate Robinson the last two games.
“I’m sure he’s frustrated and you guys don’t leave him alone,” D’Antoni said with a wry smile. “But I can understand his frustration.”
Robinson scored 41 in place of Hughes on Jan. 1 against Atlanta but put up only six in Sunday’s win over the Pacers. Hughes went on a rant after that game, saying, “It’s getting old … let guys know where they stand.”
Hughes won’t be standing in the rotation any time soon, but neither he nor D’Antoni wanted to continue the feud.
“When you’re prodded for answers, you’re going to say some things,”?D’Antoni said of the postgame comments. “When the time comes — and we call his number — he’ll be ready.”
D’Antoni backed his decision not to call his number in their last outing.
“I don’t really want to get into a whole lot and explaining the whole thing but it was one game – the Atlanta game,” said D’Antoni. “Nate was playing so well and then I couldn’t take Nate out. And then came the next game [Sunday’s 132-89 blowout win over the Pacers] and you just see how it goes. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s over.”
When asked if Hughes could’ve at least played sparingly in the past two games, D’Antoni scoffed. He noted that for veterans it’s harder to jerk around minutes and get them in a rhythm than it is to just give those leftover minutes to rookies and end-of-bench guys.
“Certain guys can [play spot duty],” said D’Antoni, who’s been known to replace a guy in the lineup instead of just expanding his rotation. “I could play Toney [Douglas] three minutes [here and there]. But I wouldn’t do that with Nate or Eddy [Curry] or David [Lee] or [Chris] Duhon. You either play them, and give them time to do what they do, or you don’t [play them at all]…young guys can take spot minutes and be happy with it.”
D’Antoni reasoned that Hughes’s number will be called again and said when it is, he’ll be ready.
For his part, Hughes, known as a consummate pro, agreed with D’Antoni’s assertion that he’ll be ready. He also didn’t want anything more to do with this issue.
“You just continue to come in everyday and work, sharpen up, and be prepared to play,” was all Hughes would allow about the benching.
But when asked if he’d have appreciated at least the common courtesy of telling a veteran he’s out of the current rotation, Hughes acquiesced some.
“I’ve done it already previously,” he said of talking to D’Antoni face-to-face about the rotation. “It’s a coach’s decision. That’s what it [box score] says and you just deal with it.”
-D’Antoni gave the regular rotation guys a respite, yesterday, as they were allowed to skip out on a full workout. “No one worries me,” D’Antoni said when asked if he gave the regular rotation guys off due to injuries. “Just an extra day would do wonders for them, that’s all. They all practiced. But come scrimmaging time, they went in for treatment.”
-It should be noted both Hughes and Robinson practiced the entire time. Neither was allowed such a luxury.