NEW ORLEANS — Jeff Hornacek plans to give Frank Ntilikina more playing time, but he’s not quite ready to start him.
“Not yet,” Hornacek said. “That’s something we’ll continue to look at it, but for now, no.”
Ntilikina had one of his best games in Thursday’s loss to San Antonio, recording nine points and 11 assists in 31:43. The last two were career highs for the rookie point guard. He added eight points, five rebounds and four assists in the Knicks’ 105-103 victory over the Pelicans on Saturday night.
For now, Hornacek will stick with Jarrett Jack as the starter and Ntilikina as the closer. He usually plays the bulk or all of the fourth quarter.
“We’re trying to get him some more minutes,” Hornacek said. “It makes it difficult late in games if he’s going well, he ends up playing a lot of minutes. Maybe we need to give him a break here and there.
“[In] San Antonio, he was playing a great game. He missed a couple shots late, but other than that, he got us into our offense, he got things going defensively.”
Despite the Knicks’ sputtering offense, Hornacek said he wasn’t considering any lineup changes before Saturday night’s game against the Pelicans.
Unless a specific matchup forces a change, Lance Thomas likely will continue to start at small forward until Tim Hardaway Jr. returns from a stress injury in his lower left leg.
Thomas was scoreless in San Antonio and backup Michael Beasley had 23 points and 12 rebounds, but Hornacek wants Thomas’ defense on the floor. He came off the bench in Chicago to start this trip and held forward Nikola Mirotic to four points, 14.5 below his average. The Knicks ended up squandering a 15-point lead and losing in the final minutes.
“Lance has done a great job on some of these guys we need to stop,” Hornacek said. “Our focus all year has been on the defensive side. We need to score some more points . . . Lance plays his role exactly how we want it.”
Porzingis’ foul mood
Kristaps Porzingis is frustrated about not getting calls when he’s hit on the arm and elbow as he shoots, but he doesn’t want to show his emotions.
“I don’t want to be the guy who is yelling at the refs,” he said. “I always try to stay calm during the game, but it’s hard.”
Porzingis said he has to adjust his game to make his move quicker, jump higher so defenders are not tapping his arm or sell the foul better.
“Just make it more clear,” he said. “There’s so much contact. There’s so much of guys getting into me in my hips, a little elbow. It’s so much. Sometimes I’m able to make shots through that and sometimes I’m not. And when you miss three or four in a row like that, it builds up.”
Hornacek said he’s spoken to the officials about it and they’ve told him, “Guys are putting their hands straight up.”
Hardaway’s road back
When Hardaway is ready to return — Hornacek believes it will be sometime in January — his final test may be playing three-on-three if the Knicks are in a stretch in which full practices are few and far between. Because it’s a stress injury, the Knicks will ease Hardaway back. Hornacek said he likely will be on a minutes restriction at first.
Hardaway, who missed his 15th straight game Saturday night, is scheduled to be re-evaluated Tuesday. He hopes he’s cleared to begin running.