CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Knicks have been one of the NBA’s biggest surprises, and Kristaps Porzingis believes Jeff Hornacek deserves credit for that.
Porzingis said Hornacek seems much more comfortable because he’s running what he wants, and the players have confidence in him and the system. They’re all buying in.
That wasn’t the case last season when, as Porzingis alluded to, former Knicks president Phil Jackson made Hornacek run the triangle offense.
“He’s just had more freedom,” Porzingis said. “He’s running the stuff he wants to run and like he sees for us. You could tell he’s more comfortable. He’s not balancing between different things. That’s a good thing. And we also feel that confidence from them. When they’re 100 percent confident in what they are doing, we also feel that. The players always feel that. There’s a difference between last year and this year.”
After a game last year, Porzingis said there was “a lot of confusion” and it was “from top to bottom.” This season, the new regime has let Hornacek handle the plays and who plays.
The results speak for themselves. In what was considered a rebuilding year, the Knicks (16-14 have been without Porzingis for six games and Tim Hardaway Jr. for nine.
“Just from day one, the way they introduced the offense, the things we’re going to run, you could just tell that there was stuff he wanted to do,” Porzingis said. “That’s what he believes in. We as players, we could feel that right away.
“[Last year] he was maybe forced to run a little bit of that, a little bit of this, do that and do this. As a player, you feel that, and as soon as things are not going well there are a lot of players who are like, ‘Yo, why are we doing this?’ When you believe in something, even when things are not going well, if you keep believing it, sooner or later a lot of times those things start to work out.”
After the Knicks beat the Thunder Saturday in Carmelo Anthony’s return to the Garden, Anthony noted how his old team was “having fun again.” Hornacek said it’s because they’re playing a different offense — no triangle.
“It’s more typical of what NBA guys play now, so that’s what they’re used to, that’s what they grew up playing,” Hornacek said. “They’re more comfortable with it.”
Hardaway joined the Knicks on this one-game trip, and got some shots up. But he was still wearing a hard brace over the stress injury in his lower left leg.
“I’m not in a wheelchair or anything guys,” Hardaway said. “I can do stuff as long it’s with the brace on. I’m not going to jump. I’m not going to try to do anything outrageous.”
The Knicks said Hardaway would be re-evaluated Tuesday and would provide an update on his health.
“Whatever the doctors tell me,” Hardaway said, “I’m 100 percent all in and move forward with it.”
Missing the Melo game
Porzingis, who missed his second straight game with a sore left knee, said it was difficult not to be able to face Anthony Saturday night.
“Believe me, I really wanted to play that game,” Porzingis said. “It was a big game. After the game, even though I didn’t play I was extremely happy for the guys. They played hard. It was a very fun game to watch.”
The Knicks aired a tribute video to Anthony, who was cheered during introductions and booed after that every time he touched the ball. Porzingis respected that.
“The video was really nice,” he said. “They received him with love I think. Later he was our enemy on the court so the fans did the right thing and booed.”