Without a practice under their belts, two of the three players acquired in Thursdays Kristaps Porzingis trade were in the Knick starting lineup Sunday at Madison Square Garden. That either was a reflection of the quality that the Knicks brought back or, more likely, how easy it is to get in the starting lineup of a team thats now 10-42.
The game was 35 seconds old when Dennis Smith Jr. swooped in for a reverse layup, the first points of the game. Then DeAndre Jordan swatted away a layup by Bruno Caboclo.
It was almost enough to make you forget the Porzingis era. In the end, though, the Knicks 96-84 loss to the Grizzlies was very similar to their performances before the trade.
The Porzingis era isnt over yet, not with his news conference scheduled for Monday afternoon in Dallas, his new home. That may be the final say for Porzingis, who has sent thinly veiled messages on Instagram since the deal.
Porzingis posted The Truth will come out Thursday night and followed that late Saturday night with another message: The city deserves better than that ... My suggestion for knicks fans is to STAY WOKE!!
No, no reaction at all, Knicks coach David Fizdale said before the game. I know what were trying to do here. I know how hard were working, what were trying to accomplish, and Im staying focused on that task. Every day these guys work extremely hard for this city, extremely hard for these fans. They dont like losing, either. But this is where they are right now, trying to fight for their wins.
I just know that these dudes are pros and they come in and get it done, and Im really proud to be a part of this group.
But in a library-quiet Garden the only sounds above a whisper were the boos for former Knick Joakim Noah and the occasional chants of We want Kanter! the Knicks showed that if the part of the plan about building with Porzingis as a centerpiece is over, the part about improving their chances in the draft lottery remains in full effect.
With the new faces in place, the Knicks lost their 13th straight game, 21st in the last 22 and 26th in the last 28 including their 14th straight loss at the Garden, where they havent won since Dec. 1. Their .192 winning percentage is the NBAs worst.
The Grizzlies (21-33) arrived with 11 losses in their last 12 games and well aware that their stars, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr., are being shopped before Thursdays trade deadline.
Still, the Grizzlies steadily pulled away, building the lead to 16 points.
Smith provided a handful of highlights, starting with that opening bucket and featuring a beautiful pass to Kevin Knox (17 points) for an open three-point field goal in the second quarter.
Smith wound up with eight points and six assists. The third new Knick, Wesley Matthews Jr., had five and shot 1-for-7 from beyond the arc. Jordan put up a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Conley had 25 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Gasol had 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
The Knicks continued their efforts to win the hearts and minds of the fan base. In an interview on the teams MSG Network, team president Steve Mills explained why he believed the team had to move Porzingis shortly before the MSG Network put up a graphic that included in the bio of Porzingis that he skipped his exit interview in 2017 and played in only 186 out of a possible 296 games.
We felt the [Feb. 7 trade deadline] was really important because if we let this go beyond the seventh, the leverage completely shifted, Mills said. We would not have control of the situation.
We werent sure what Kristaps was going to come in and tell us. We didnt know if hed come in and tell us he wanted to be traded or he may have come in and said he wanted to do a one-year contract with a player option, which would then have made him untradeable and he would have had all the leverage.
We just felt that we needed to have some certainty by the seventh. When [Porzingis and his brother Janis, his agent] came in to meet with us, they made it clear to us it was a meeting that they requested they made it clear to us that he did not want to play for the Knicks, that he was not going to re-sign with us as a free agent.
And we in one way thanked him for the clarity because it gave us the information we needed to know.