NEW ORLEANS — The game isn’t coming as easy for Kristaps Porzingis these days as it was at the start of the season.
Teams are playing him more physically and throwing different defenses at him, and he is trying to adjust to that as a first-time franchise player. But Porzingis said the ticky-tack fouls on his arm when he shoots are messing with his game and his head. He’s considering changing how he plays.
“It makes me super-mad that those little touches on the elbow and arm, I know they’re small, but it affects my shot so much,” Porzingis said. “I’m confused. I’m thinking about should I change my game because I shoot those shots so many times over guys. It just makes me mad that I’m not able to get those calls. I have to play through that. Maybe I’ll get them as we go forward.”
The 7-3 Porzingis said he tries to point it out to the referees before the game, but apparently they’re not seeing what he’s feeling.
“They know what’s going on,” he said. “They know those are the type of things they have to look at. Maybe it’s too hard to see. Maybe I’m too high up, I’m too long, I don’t know.”
Porzingis definitely appeared frustrated at times during the Knicks’ 119-107 loss in San Antonio on Thursday night. He shot 6-for-16 and fouled out with 18 points. He attempted six free throws, half of what Spurs counterpart LaMarcus Aldridge took. Aldridge, however, was playing in the post more.
It’s been a rough start to this three-game road trip for Porzingis and the Knicks, who have dropped four straight overall.
The Knicks have lost both games on the trip, including a meltdown in Chicago in which they squandered a 15-point second-quarter lead and scored one point in the final 4:23. Porzingis disappeared down the stretch both nights, shooting 2-for-7 and scoring four points — two in each game — in the two fourth quarters. He has totaled 10 points in his last three fourth quarters.
Porzingis hopes to be more impactful when the Knicks (17-18 overall, 2-12 on the road) end this trip Saturday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. But he has hit the skids somewhat after opening the season on a torrid pace. His 300 points through the first 10 games set a franchise record.
“I won’t be able to get open looks much,” Porzingis said. “So if I’m on the block and the double-team doesn’t come, I’m going to shoot over guys.”
That’s what coach Jeff Hornacek would like to see Porzingis do more.
“I think some of the times, if he’d just catch and turn, like he was doing in the third quarter [Thursday], he just caught it, made a quick spin and shot it,” Hornacek said. “That’s hard to challenge. But when there’s hesitation or a pump fake, that’s when guys get in the body and make it harder.”
Porzingis is averaging 24.3 points this season, but since returning from a knee injury that kept him out for two games, he has had trouble finding a rhythm offensively.
It started with an 0-for-11, one-point night in which Michael Beasley carried the Knicks to a win over Boston. In his last five games, Porzingis has shot 33-for-96 overall (34.4 percent) and 6-for-22 on three-pointers (27.3 percent) and is averaging 18.6 points.
He’s been set back by a combination of things, including injuries, the defenses he’s facing for the first time and not having Tim Hardaway Jr. in the lineup to take some attention away from him. But Porzingis said he’s still evolving as a player.
“I’m still learning,” he said. “I’m happy with the decisions I’m making. I’m making better passes out of the post when the double-team comes. I think I’m reading the defense better. Earlier I was maybe forcing it a little too much. Now I’m finding the open guy much more and I’m able to make those passes sharp.
“I’m not too concerned about not scoring 30, as I was at the beginning of the season. If I’m making the right play for the team, that’s all that matters.”
Missing “Angry Grandpa.” With Hardaway sidelined the last 14 games with a stress injury in his lower left leg, Beasley — who scored 23 points against the Spurs — has made the most of his opportunity. But the Knicks are 6-8 without Hardaway, nicknamed “Angry Grandpa.” He acknowledges how much the team misses him.
“As soon as he went down, every win became a tough win,” Beasley said. “We gutted out a lot of wins since he’s been gone. Great player, great shooter, great playmaker, great energy, his vibe, his encouragement is needed, we still hear his voice. We call him ‘Angry Grandpa.’ Him going down was definitely detrimental to the team.”
Hardaway has increased his on-court activities and hopes he will be cleared to run when he’s re-evaluated next week.