Kristaps Porzingis says Willy Hernangomez deserves to play more
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — A little more than a month ago, Willy Hernangomez appeared to be one of the Knicks’ most promising young stars.
Hernangomez made the NBA’s All-Rookie team last season and played a major bench role for Team Spain in the European Championships this past summer. Yet he has been so completely removed from the Knicks’ regular rotation that he played only garbage time in the season opener and did not play at all in the Knicks’ home opener Saturday, a 111-107 loss to Detroit.
Hernangomez has lost the backup job to Kyle O’Quinn. Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said O’Quinn and starter Enes Kanter played very well in the loss to the Pistons, so he wasn’t sure if there will be a change in Hernangomez’s status for Tuesday’s game in Boston.
Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks’ best player and a close friend of Hernangomez, said after practice on Sunday that he thinks the young Spaniard “deserves” to be on the floor.
“I think so. He deserves it,” Porzingis said. “But we have a lot of big guys on the floor and I understand everybody’s fighting for those minutes. And not everybody is going to get what they deserve. And it is what it is.”
Hernangomez told a reporter after the Knicks’ loss Saturday, in which they blew a 21-point lead, that he was upset not to have played. Porzingis said he understands his friend’s mindset.
“I know he’s in a tough spot right now where he wants to play and he worked hard all summer,’’ Porzingis said. “He was on the national team and now he obviously loves basketball, he wants to be on the floor every moment. I’m trying to talk to him to make sure he has his head up and doesn’t focus on the bad things, but focus on the things he can do better. And that way, prove that he needs to be on the floor, and we need him to be on the floor. And that’s it. So, as a close friend, I’m trying to talk to him and make sure he has his spirits up.”
Hornacek said he hasn’t talked to Hernangomez since Saturday but has been impressed with his play in practice.
“I think he understands,” Hornacek said. “Guys should be frustrated and that should make you want to work harder, and that’s what he’s done. In practice, he’s come out and he’s really gone after it. I love what I’m seeing from him.”
Notes & quotes: Point guard Frank Ntilikina did not practice. Ntilikina missed the home opener after rolling his ankle in Friday’s practice. Hornacek said they will see if he’s able to practice Monday before deciding about Tuesday’s game in Boston.