ORLANDO, Fla. — Kristaps Porzingis seems firmly planted as the Knicks’ franchise player going forward, which wasn’t necessarily the case a little more than a week ago.
Former Knicks president Phil Jackson said he was receiving calls for Porzingis before the NBA Draft and sounded open to trading him. But in the last two days, coach Jeff Hornacek has said Porzingis is ready to be the focal point of the Knicks’ offense and that he doesn’t expect him to be traded.
“We love KP and what he does,” Hornacek said. “I don’t see him going anywhere.”
You can feel the shift in the Knicks now that Jackson isn’t calling the shots anymore.
Jackson was upset that Porzingis missed his exit meeting and said in April that he didn’t think Porzingis was ready to carry the load for the Knicks. Then Jackson made it sound as if Porzingis could be traded. Some believe he was trying to send a message to the young big man, who will be entering his third NBA season.
Hornacek is taking a different tack, knowing how important Porzingis will be, especially given that Carmelo Anthony might not be back with the Knicks.
Hornacek doesn’t appear as bothered by Porzingis’ decision to skip the exit meeting — which he did out of frustration over the franchise’s dysfunction — and said too much is being made of it.
“KP, that’s what he felt at the moment,” Hornacek said, “and then he goes, ‘I’m good, let’s go.’ So guys make decisions to do whatever. I’m sure when he comes back, we’ll talk. If you’re going to be more of the leader on the team, those things are lessons. Not that big a deal.”
Hornacek hasn’t ruled out going to Europe to see Por zingis later in the summer. Por zingis is there training for the European championships. Hornacek has made it sound as if they have had contact, possibly since Jackson left.
Earlier in the offseason, Hornacek sent texts to Porzingis that weren’t returned. Until recently, Knicks officials’ only contact had been with Por zingis’ brother Janis.
“We’ve been in contact with him,” Hornacek said. “So he’s busy out there working on his game and we know he is, so I don’t [think] it’s too big a deal what’s going on. He’ll be back ready to play.”
The Knicks, it seems, are going with a youth movement. Anthony’s future with the team is in doubt. They drafted 18-year-old French guard Frank Ntilikina, and their only move to this point in free agency was to bring back Ron Baker, an undrafted rookie who made the team last season, on a two-year deal.
That should put Porzingis front and center as the Knicks’ go-to guy around whom they will build.
In his second NBA season, Porzingis averaged 18.1 points and 7.2 rebounds in 66 games but had to share the ball and shots with Anthony and Derrick Rose. Porzingis took 14.9 shots per game, third on the team.
Hornacek believes he will be ready to carry the load next season. “It’s usually that third year in the league,” he said. “The first year, you’re kind of getting your feet wet. Second year, now you’re feeling more comfortable, so you take those steps forward. The third year, you’re really confident.
“You’ve been in the league for a couple of years. You know guys’ tendencies more. You know how guys guard you more. The game starts to slow down for you. When the game starts to slow down for you, that’s when you take those strides.”
Ntilikina sits again
Ntilikina missed his second straight summer league game Sunday with a bruised right knee, and Hornacek said he probably won’t play Monday, either. The Knicks are off Tuesday and wrap up summer league action with games Wednesday and Thursday.
Before the Knicks’ 103-78 loss to the Pistons, Ntilikina was out shooting and moving around a little more, and he got some pointers from his coach. “He was shooting it pretty well,” Hornacek said. “I liked watching him shoot the ball. Once he got warmed, he had one spot he probably made six or seven out of 10. The next spot, he made nine out of 10. He’s itching to get back and play, he wants to play, but we still have to be careful.”
Holiday signs with Bulls
The Knicks hoped to re-sign backup shooting guard Justin Holiday, but they lost him to the Bulls. A league source confirmed that Holiday reached an agreement on a two-year, $9-million deal with Chicago. The Knicks never made a formal offer for Holiday, the source said.