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Brandon Knight now declared shut down for rest of season - arguments for and against him

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Knight joins Bledsoe and Chandler after refusing to play.

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Apparently, Brandon Knight feels like he’s been terribly wronged by the Phoenix Suns and now he’s refusing to even play for the team that committed $70 million to him through 2020.

He refused to play on Wednesday night, declaring previously undisclosed ‘back tightness’ when the Suns suddenly decided to rest Eric Bledsoe and offered Knight the olive branch of a chance to come off the bench against the Kings after being out of the rotation the prior 11 games.

Since then, he and the Suns have mutually agreed that Brandon Knight will no longer represent the Suns on the court at any time this season.

“He’s not playing the rest of the season,” Watson said simply, before the Suns-Magic game on Friday night.

Knight joins Tyson Chandler and Eric Bledsoe on that list. All three have been officially shut down for the season. If you’re keeping score, Chandler told media he was on board with it, Bledsoe told media he was a little miffed but stated he would support the front office’s decision, and now Knight is, well, not taking it well.

When the Suns decided to shut down Bledsoe, they did give Knight the chance to resume his role as sixth man off the bench, which he’d played all season until the All-Star Break last month.

Apparently, Knight doesn’t like being told when to play and when not to play by his coach or the team that’s paying him $70 million.

Just a few days ago, the usually-unavailable-for-media Knight took some time to talk to beat reporter Doug Haller about his role.

Knight’s approach during this stretch: “Just being myself,” he said. “Trusting the type of person that I am and knowing that I always try to do things the right way. This season’s been a little different, a little difficult. An adjustment. I’m trying to do things the right way. Whether I’m playing 30 minutes, 35 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes or not playing at all, I’m going to continue to be the hardest worker.”

Now Knight has decided that “hardest worker” means working the hardest to refuse to play for the team that still owes you several million dollars this season.

He’s butt-hurt. (Literally. Butt-hurt from sitting on the bench so much this year. I’m surprised ‘gluteal soreness’ wasn’t the ailment Knight disclosed.)

There are two sides to every story, and the media and fans just simply don’t know the whole story.

Let’s put together two coherent arguments. One in support of Brandon Knight, and one against Brandon Knight.

The argument to support Brandon Knight

Just six years ago, Brandon Knight was the 8th overall pick in the 2011 draft after one year at the University of Kentucky.

He started at point guard for two seasons in Detroit, then started at point guard for 1.5 seasons in Milwaukee and started as playmaking shooting guard for 1.5 seasons in Phoenix.

Every year, even through last season, Knight improved his raw numbers across the board.

  • 2011-12: 32.3 minutes, 12.8 points, 3.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds per game
  • 2012-13: 31.5 minutes, 13.3 points, 4.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds per game

Acquired by Milwaukee along with Kris Middleton for starting point guard Brandon Jennings

  • 2013-14: 33.3 minutes, 17.9 points, 4.9 assists, 3.5 rebounds per game
  • 2014-15: 32.3 minutes, 17.0 points, 5.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds per game

In conversation for All-Star game in East.

Acquired by Phoenix mid-season for what was deemed the best trade asset in basketball: a highly coveted, lightly protected first round pick from plummeting Lakers

Signed $70 million, 5 year extension with Suns (an exact match with back court mate Eric Bledsoe’s contract signed a year earlier)

  • 2015-16: 36.0 minutes, 19.6 points, 5.1 assists, 3.9 rebounds per game
  • 2016-17: 21.1 minutes, 11.0 points, 2.4 assists, 2.2 rebounds per game off the bench

If you’re Brandon Knight, you point to five years of improvement across the board. You point to being All-Star caliber in 2015. You point to the Suns committing $70 million to you. You point to still only being 24 years old on opening night.

You point to being the hardest worker in the game.

“This is what I do,” Knight said in the Haller article on azcentral.com. “It’s what I’ve done my entire life. It’s how I survive. It’s how I made it, so no matter what’s going on, I’m never going to stop being the hardest worker.”

And you ask, why should you just suddenly be told you’re coming off the bench for some 20-year old who scored in garbage time last spring while everyone was hurt?

“He took advantage of his situation,” Knight said last spring, when asked if he was surprised at Booker’s rookie season after Eric Bledsoe went down in December.

This year, he was told to come off the bench behind All-Star caliber Eric Bledsoe and rising star Devin Booker. And he clearly hated it.

So imagine how much MORE he hates being told to come off the bench behind not only Booker but also a 21-year old undersized rookie point guard?

This is Brandon Knight you’re talking to. Knight, who just turned 25, has three full years of guaranteed money on his deal being paid like a starter.

How dare the Suns ask him to bench-warm for a couple kids who look like they are still in high school?

In two short years, Knight saw himself get demoted from clear starting point guard (his clearly perfect role) to starting shooting guard to backup combo guard to backup shooting guard to nothing at all.

So Brandon Knight is taking back a little control. He’s not going to let the Suns yo-yo him in and out of the lineup any more. He’s done for the season and, he hopes, onto a better situation somewhere else for next year.

And here we have a Suns front office experiencing their fourth consecutive year of royally pissed off employees at how they are being handled. Earl Watson was supposed to help stop this stuff from happening, but here we are again.

First it was Channing Frye getting lowballed in free agency after the wonderful 2013-14 resurgent season. Then, Isaiah Thomas complaining about coming off the bench. Then, Goran Dragic demanding to be traded. Then Markieff Morris demanding to be traded and playing, but tanking, the season. Now, Brandon Knight.

This is a Suns problem. They mistreat players who deserve to be treated better.

The argument against Brandon Knight

There’s another side to this argument.

And it’s deeper than a youtube mixtape of Knight’s penchant for poor decision making at the worst of times.

While Knight improved for Detroit, they chose to trade him while he was still just 20 years old for an older, but not demonstrably better, option in Brandon Jennings.

And while Knight was “in the conversation” for the All-Star game in February 2015 at just 22 years old, the Bucks traded him for unproven Michael Carter-Williams - knowing the trade could kill their storybook season. Coach Jason Kidd actually used the words “looking long term” as a reason to trade a 22-year old potential All-Star.

He frustrated the team with his lack of commitment to play through ankle pain in 2015 and barely played the rest of the year. Disappointment over being traded for a second time was all over his face and his play that spring when he DID play. The Suns eventually faded to 39-43 and out of the playoffs.

He made it clear he didn’t like being a secondary ball handler in 2015-16, and then suffered another surprisingly long-term injury, this time to his groin area. As the Suns spiraled out of control, Knight played in only bits and parts the rest of the season.

Asked how 2016-17 might look with Bledsoe back healthy and rising star Booker on the team, Knight defiantly began the summer declaring that he didn’t see his role changing.

And when it did, putting him on the bench, Knight has been one of the very worst players in the NBA this season. Everything he did was bad, rolling up into a tidy ball incredibly awful plus-minus while he’s on the court. He arguably did a better job tanking this season than Markieff Morris did last year.

Just this week, after saying he’d keep working hard despite his role, he refused to help his teammates by playing this week. This while Devin Booker is limping on a severely sprained ankle and the Suns clearly need the help.

The Suns couldn’t find anyone to take him off their hands at the trade deadline and now might be stuck with him for three years or might have to release him and eat the remaining $45 million over the next 3 years (or 7, if they stretch the contract).

All is not well in Suns land.