SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Kristaps Porzingis was the first to see something and say something when he expressed that despite the Knicks’ early-season success, something was missing. The second-year big man proved to have great foresight.
“I think it was pretty easy to tell from the inside that we’re not that good of a team,” Porzingis said after Sunday’s practice. “We can win games based off of our talent, but that’s not going to last long, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Porzingis said he felt that way when the Knicks were 14-10, but he never thought it would turn out as bad as it has. Since then, they have gone 13-32. They’ve clinched a fourth straight losing season and, according to Derrick Rose, need “a miracle” to make the playoffs.
The Knicks are 6 1⁄2 games behind the Eastern Conference’s last playoff spot with 13 to play. They’re closer to getting a higher draft pick than making the playoffs.
“We all expected big things out of this year,” said Porzingis, who should return Monday night against the Clippers after missing the previous game with a bruised left thigh. “ . . . I felt like we would make good runs but we weren’t there at that level yet where we wanted to be. And you can see it now we’re not where we wanted to be.”
A lack of defense has been the Knicks’ most glaring deficiency, but Porzingis delved a little deeper into what he saw that was missing.
“Just more work, attention to details, keep growing as a team,” he said. “Obviously, a good team needs some time to play together. This was our first year for most guys playing together. It never happens like that: You trade a couple of players and there you go, you’re a championship contender.
“It’s understandable that we weren’t going to win the championship, but I could tell that we weren’t there yet where we wanted to be.”
The Knicks made changes during the season to their game plans, their defense and their offensive system. It led Porzingis to say after the loss to the Nets on March 12 that there’s “a lot of confusion” and it’s “from top to bottom.” Four days later, the Knicks again lost to the Nets, the NBA’s worst team.
“It shows where we are right now,” Porzingis said Sunday.
With Carmelo Anthony, Rose and Porzingis, the Knicks thought they could be one of the top teams in the East and be able to make some noise in the playoffs. But Rose lamented that they never developed chemistry. “We didn’t click,” he said. “We didn’t have that connection that we wanted throughout the season. You need that to go far in this league.”
Now Porzingis said all that’s left is to play as hard as possible.
“That’s hard to do now in this situation where you’re down and not winning games and not where you want to be, which is the playoffs,” he said. “It’s tough mentally, but just to be able to sleep at night, we have to go out every night and give our all. And once the season is over, it’s over.”