HOUSTON — Kristaps Porzingis was on the locker room floor working on his core muscles. A few minutes later, Enes Kanter walked in and was moving gingerly.
Back ailments sidelined both players for Saturday night’s game against the Rockets.
For Kanter, it was expected, given that he missed Friday night’s game in Atlanta with back spasms. Porzingis said his lower back tightened up after the loss to the Hawks.
“Once I cooled down, that’s when I really started feeling the tightness in my back,” he said. “That’s when I knew it was going to not get better. It’s going to get a little worse.”
Porzingis said flying to Houston and sleeping in a hotel bed didn’t help him: “It got tighter.” He said it loosened up a little bit, but not enough for him to play.
“I want to play as many games as I can,” he said. “But when there’s something like this, I feel like it’s better for me to be healthy than push through this game and maybe not have a great game or have a bad game maybe even. Nobody’s going to appreciate that.
“I’d rather be healthy and play when I’m ready to play.”
Michael Beasley — who scored 24 of his 30 points and shot 11-for-15 in the first half in the Knicks’ 117-102 loss to the Rockets — started in place of Porzingis. Kyle O’Quinn (20 points, 15 rebounds) replaced Kanter with the first unit.
The Knicks’ next game is Monday. It’s too soon to know if either will be available, but Porzingis was moving much better than Kanter, who had said on Friday that if he had played against the Hawks and aggravated his back further, he could have been out for multiple weeks.
“When you watch Enes, he was walking sideways,” Jeff Hornacek said. “If he tried to [play], I could see how he could easily make it worse.”
This is the second game Porzingis has missed this season. The first was with ankle and elbow issues. Both of them were the second night of a back-to-back, but Porzingis said that had nothing to do with it. He pointed out that he had “a great game” (38 points) in the second half of a back-to-back earlier in the season.
“It just happens to be a back-to-back again that I have to miss,” he said. “If I felt good and my body is healthy, it doesn’t matter if it’s a back-to-back or we have three days in between, I’ll be ready to go. This time it’s a back-to-back and I have to sit out.”
This would have been an opportunity for the Knicks to give minutes to Joakim Noah, who hasn’t played this season. Noah didn’t join the team on this trip because he’s ill. Hornacek said some thought was given to flying him to Houston, but it was doubtful that he would be ready to play.
“We talked about it,” Hornacek said. “With him being sick, still probably wasn’t right.”