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Willy Hernangomez positioning himself as Knicks’ backup center

Willy Hernangomez of the New York Knicks waits

Willy Hernangomez of the New York Knicks waits on the court during their game against the Houston Rockets on Oct. 4, 2016. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Scott Halleran

Willy Hernangomez is putting the Knicks on notice.

Though their bench is populated with a number of veterans more than capable of contributing when necessary, coach Jeff Hornacek said the rookie is making a real case for being the Knicks second option at center. Though his numbers aren’t eye-popping — he only scored two points in the Knicks’ win over the Wizards on Monday, but had 12 points with 12 rebounds in 24 minutes in a loss to the Celtics on Saturday night — the Spaniard had shown maturity and strong court acumen.

There is speculation that Hornacek could look to Hernangomez ahead of veteran Kyle O’Quinn.

“I think [Hernangomez] probably is [in the running for sixth man] for some of the things that he’s been doing for us,” Hornacek said.

Hernangomez came to the Knicks after a four-year career in Europe. He declared for the 2015 NBA Draft, and was selected with the 35th overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers. His rights were later traded to the Knicks on draft night. In his final season with Real Madrid, Hernangomez averaged 4.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 0.6 blocks in 14 games.

“He does a lot of good things for us,” Hornacek said. “He didn’t look like he got tired very much. You saw some of his ability and his passing.”

Marshall Plumlee is also battling for the backup spot — a coveted role, give Joakim Noah’s propensity for injury.

Rose return still uncertain

As expected, Derrick Rose missed the game Saturday as he stands trial in a civil sexual assault case in Los Angeles. Though the Knicks were hopeful to have him back early next week, Hornacek said Friday he isn’t sure when Rose will return.


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