Um, who are these guys?
If you had been in hibernation for most of the NBA season, this is the question you likely would have asked yourself as you watched Friday night’s game between the Knicks and the Nets, both of whom used makeshift lineups. Yes, the Knicks won this battle of two teams going nowhere, but their 105-91 victory at Madison Square Garden did little to change the fact that this has been a disappointing and confusing season for fans of both basketball teams.
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Before the game, it was revealed that an MRI on Thursday found that Kristaps Porzingis has a strained right shoulder and that point guard Jose Calderon has a right quadriceps contusion.
Porzingis apparently hurt the shoulder while attempting to block a shot at the rim during Monday night’s loss to New Orleans. Though he is officially listed as day-to-day, there are only five games remaining in the season and interim coach Kurt Rambis doesn’t seem inclined to put him back on the court if he’s not 100 percent.
“I would be the last person to recommend that he comes back and puts himself in a situation where he could do more harm to himself,” Rambis said before the game. “That would be ridiculous of us as an organization and a medical staff.”
This was only the fifth game that the rookie has missed. He previously suffered soreness in the same shoulder in January but did not miss any time.
Porzingis, who is averaging 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in 72 games, was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season. After getting off to a fantastic start, he hit a midseason wall but finished strongly, recording double-doubles in three of his last five games.
Porzingis was not available for comment after the game. “He’s pretty smart about his situation,” Carmelo Anthony said when asked if he thinks Porzingis will push himself to come back before the end of the season. “If he feels like he can go out there and play, he should go out there and play. If he feels like it would make it worse, sit out.”
Porzingis and Calderon, who was on crutches in the locker room, were replaced by Derrick Williams and Jerian Grant. Though both players haven’t officially been ruled out for the rest of the season, it’s likely that Knicks fans have seen the last of the exciting Latvian rookie and the beleaguered Calderon.
They also might see less and less of Anthony; several veteran Knicks have volunteered to cut their minutes in favor of the young players. Anthony played just under 25 minutes and had 13 points and six rebounds.
Instead, the Knicks were led by Langston Galloway, who had 18 points and seven assists and shot 7-for-11, and Williams, who had 16 points and made all four of his three-point attempts. Grant, making his first start, had 14 points and four assists. The Knicks went deep into their roster, giving minutes to D-League call-up Cleanthony Early, who had seven points, six rebounds and three assists in 23:01.
Sean Kilpatrick had 17 points for the Nets. Brook Lopez and Markel Brown each scored 16.