SAN ANTONIO — Playing with Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose, Kristaps Porzingis hasn’t had the opportunity to be the focal point of the offense. With Anthony and Rose out Thursday night, he had that chance, and Porzingis was disappointed with his performance.
The results weren’t what he or the Knicks wanted as he shot poorly in a 110-95 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
But the experience was good for the Knicks’ second-year big man and future franchise player, as well as some younger guys who received heavy minutes with Rose (foot), Anthony (knee) and Lance Thomas (hip) out. All three could return tonight when this four-game trip ends against the Spurs.
“I’m trying to learn how to be the guy, how to be the focal point,” Porzingis said after the game. “Make a play or create a shot for myself. I’m still working on that. I still have a lot to learn. That’s one thing as I keep growing as a player I’ll have to learn and be better at.”
You can’t judge Porzingis off one game, especially with the Knicks starting three rookies and playing five in all. But there is going to come a point — perhaps next season — when the Knicks will be Porzingis’ team. The futures of Anthony and Rose as Knicks certainly aren’t as solid as Porzingis’ is.
With the Blazers’ defense focusing on him, Porzingis missed his first five shots. He finished 8-for-21 (0-for-5 from three-point range) and scored 18 points but was a minus-16.
“I felt comfortable out there,” he said. “I felt good out there. I just missed shots. That’s what’s disappointing. It happens. Honestly, I’m thinking about getting back in the gym right now. It’s so disappointing. It feels like with not making a lot of shots, I let myself down and I let the team down.”
Coach Jeff Hornacek said Porzingis “double-clutched” too much and should have gone right up with his shot, but he believes he will learn from this. Hornacek also said it showed how difficult it is to become a go-to guy the way Anthony and Rose have been.
“Those guys are great one-on-one players,” Hornacek said. “When they try to take something away from them on a set offense, they can create their own stuff. That usually takes you a few years in the league to figure it out. KP, he’ll get there.
“Right now, it’s more helpful and beneficial if someone can make a play or set a good screen for him and let him come off that way. That’s part of the growing process, part of the learning process for him. You can look back three years from now and say that’s where he got that practice — he’ll be good.”
Porzingis said he needs to work on his post game all the way around. He said he needs to get stronger and to have Anthony’s vision. Anthony can see double-teams coming, and he makes his decision to shoot, drive or pass depending on that. Porzingis said all he sees is the defender and the basket.
He says these are among the things he has talked about with team president Phil Jackson.
“He knows everything about basketball,” Porzingis said. “Whenever I have a question, whenever he has something to say to me, I listen to him, try to learn as much as I can.”
Porzingis watches video of himself all the time to see what he can do better, and he said he “always” finds things. He puts in the extra work because he’s determined to become a franchise player.
“There’s so much to learn,” he said. “I’m still growing, still learning my game, trying to find what type of player I’ll be at the very end. There are things that I can do and all those things I have to keep working at to become a complete player.”
Phil in LA, Mills at NCAA
Jackson was in Los Angeles for the Shaquille O’Neal statue unveiling outside the Staples Center on Friday. General manager Steve Mills flew from Portland to Memphis for the South Regional showdown between UCLA and Kentucky.
Depending on where they end up in the NBA lottery, the Knicks could be in position to draft three guards from that game: UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox and Fox’s backcourt mate, Malik Monk.
Rose will call on Calipari
Rose, who will be a free agent this summer, said he will seek advice from Kentucky coach John Calipari. He was Rose’s college coach at Memphis.
“[We] kind of have like a father-son relationship,” Rose said. “He’s like a mentor to me, someone that’s been in the game a long time. I love to just hear his perspective on everything, but especially on basketball — just to hear another voice in my corner.”