GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Knicks were dribbling and shooting and defending and rebounding Saturday on the MSG Training Center court, but their 7-3 standout was standing out with his absence.
Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t even in the building. His right ankle had bent in a way that ankles really shouldn’t bend Wednesday night at the Garden. He suffered a sprain about 2 1⁄2 minutes into that win over Miami, and he didn’t practice Friday after the Knicks took Thursday off. But now he was home sick.
So between the ankle and the illness, Porzingis is listed as questionable for Sunday when Orlando comes in to face the 11-10 Knicks. And if he doesn’t play?
“Of course, he’s a big part of our family,” Enes Kanter said after practice. “When your best players are not playing, it just makes you a little nervous. But I believe that all the guys are going to step up.”
The last time the Knicks stepped out on the floor against Orlando was Nov. 8. It was the second game of a home/road back-to-back. Porzingis sat out with a sprained left ankle and bursitis in his right elbow, and the Knicks fell by 13.
If he isn’t good to go — and Porzingis indicated Friday that he wants to be 100 percent before returning — then Lance Thomas and Michael Beasley are the candidates to open in his place at power forward against the 9-14 Magic, according to Jeff Hornacek. The Knicks are 0-2 without Porzingis.
“We need him bad out there every game,” Kanter said. “I don’t want to think about win without him or not [win] without him. He’s our best player.”
But they had him only briefly for that Miami game, and the Knicks beat the Heat by 29 points. So they saw they can win without him, although Jarrett Jack downplayed that fact.
“To be honest, I don’t think that even crossed anybody’s mind,” Jack said. “We always have that ‘next-man-up’ type of mentality.”
Still, it isn’t easy replacing all that “The Unicorn” brings. Porzingis has taken a giant step forward in this third season, averaging 25.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 31.5 minutes.
“Obviously, KP presents different dynamics as far as matchups and his ability,” Jack said. “We try to get him the ball at a steady clip. He kind of sets the table for a lot of other things that we’re able to do offensively. But we’re still going to run the same offense. We still have the same principles. It may be a steady diet of different people getting the ball a little bit more than probably expected if KP was there.”
It helps that Kanter is in there again. The Knicks lost three straight while their new starting center was out with back spasms. He returned with 22 points and 14 rebounds to assist them in overcoming Porzingis’ loss against Miami. That brought his double-double production to 14.1 points and 10.4 rebounds, including 3.8 on the offensive glass.
“When Enes plays, he brings a lot of energy to our team,” Hornacek said. “He brings us second shots. The games that he missed, we didn’t get very many.”
Jack also has helped by providing a steady hand at point guard. The 34-year-old newcomer came to practice ranked 11th in the NBA with 3.53 assists per turnover and 16th with 5.9 assists per game.
The young hand behind Jack, Frank Ntilikina, missed the Miami game with a sprained left ankle and practiced on a limited basis the last two days. Like Porzingis, the first-round pick is listed as questionable.
“I think the biggest thing that I wanted to bring to the team was us just establishing an identity for ourselves,” Jack said.
He believes they have done that in beating outsiders’ low expectations, saying, “If you don’t match our intensity, you could be in for a long night.”