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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

Doc Rivers sees Kristaps Porzingis' injury as a blow to Knicks recruiting

Porzingis had surgery on Feb. 13 to repair a torn left ACL, and no timetable has been given for his return, but the Knicks will be cautious with their franchise player.

Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks is

Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks is helped off the court after an injury in the first half against the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Knicks are looking to the future, but it’s filled with uncertainty, as Clippers coach Doc Rivers pointed out.

Speaking about Kristaps Porzingis’ season-ending ACL injury, Rivers said it won’t only impact the Knicks in the standings but also in their ability to attract free agents.

“Those are tough blows,” Rivers said. “In this day and time an ACL is not a death sentence anymore. Most guys come back and they’re healthy and they’re fine. But he was having an All-Star season. He’s also a guy that I don’t know if you want to call him a pied piper but he brings other people. The better he plays the more people want to play with him.

“Not having him and not knowing when he’ll be back that hurts more than just this year. To me that’s where that injury hurts them the most.”

There is truth in Rivers’ words. But it was interesting coming from the onetime Knick, who has been rumored to be a possible candidate to coach his old team if he’s available and Jeff Hornacek isn’t retained

Porzingis had surgery on Feb. 13 to repair a torn left ACL. No timetable has been given for his return, but the Knicks will be cautious with their franchise player.

Some players have missed a year or longer. It could help Porzingis that he’s only 22 years old. But the fact that he’s 7-3 could be a drawback.

Porzingis has been rehabbing in New York, and is expected to visit the Knicks’ practice facility at some point after they return from this trip.

The Knicks aren’t expected to be major players in free agency this year. They only have the mid-level exception, and they’re not going to do anything to jeopardize their cap space in 2019.

The Knicks want to position themselves that summer to spend on a free-agent class that could include Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and Kevin Love. Irving revealed over All-Star Weekend that he told Porzingis, “I would love to play with a big man like you.” Others might feel that way as well.

If Porzingis can return at some point next season and play at a high level it could put the Knicks in a good position come July 2019. But there still is so much uncertainty regarding his future and the Knicks.

Not now, Noah

Joakim Noah is expected to remain a Knick until at least the summer — even though indications are he won’t return to the team.

The Knicks didn’t buy out Noah by Thursday, which was the deadline to be playoff eligible. There were no substantive buyout talks. Noah wasn’t willing to give any of his guaranteed money back. The Knicks are looking at another approach and date anyway.

If they can’t trade him in the offseason — they probably would have to add a young player or a future draft pick to even entice a team to take Noah and the two years and $38.8 million he has remaining on his contract — the Knicks could wait until Sept. 1 to stretch his contract.

By doing that, Noah would be paid his full $18.8 million next season. But the $19.3 million for 2019-20 would be stretched over three seasons, meaning he would be on the books for three years at roughly $6.43 million per.

The benefit to that is it won’t eat away as much money in that fateful summer of 2019.

Coach Jack

Jarrett Jack went from the Knicks’ starting point guard for 56 games to completely out of the rotation. But Jeff Hornacek believes helping mentor young guards Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke, will prepare him for a career in coaching.

Jack, 34, said he’s thought about it. But he also knows it’s not easy to come up with practice plans, game plans and manage everyone’s egos and personalities.

“It’s a hell of a job,” Jack said. “I wouldn’t want to just sit here and be like ‘Yeah I’m going to do it’ like it’s just some walk in the park type thing. If I was able to get in that line of work and I was passionate about it and learned the craft and was confident with it, I would probably give it a shot.”

Jack said he wants to keep playing as long as he’s “effective.” He rattled off the names of his many coaches and what he’s learned from each of them, and thanked Hornacek for giving him “a hell of a chance when a lot of people probably thought my career was over.”

Triple-threat James

LeBron James may never match Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson in championships, but it’s remarkable what he’s doing at the age of 33 and after playing more than 1,300 regular-season and playoff games.

“He gets better with time,” his coach Tyronn Lue said

James averaged a triple-double in February — the first time he’s done that for a calendar month.

In the process, he became the first player to record at least 30,000 points, 8,000 rebounds and 8,000 assists. “It’s pretty cool,” was James’ take on his historic feat.

“I take pride in my game,” James said. “I’ve always taken pride in being a triple-threat since I started playing basketball, and I never wanted to be labeled as a scorer.

“I always wanted to be labeled as just an all-around basketball player and I get more gratification out of the assist more than anything because to get my guys great looks or they’re knocking down shots, that means a lot to me.”

Barricades against Rockets

Rivers and the Clippers were prepared for the Rockets’ visit to the Staples Center Wednesday.

“We’ve kind of barricaded all of the secret passageways,” Rivers said.

Turns out Rivers wasn’t kidding. After the game, won by Houston, the Rockets returned to the visitor’s locker room and found yellow caution tape all around the door that leads to the back corridor.

Last month, several Houston players made their way through that corridor to get into the Clippers’ locker room following a heated game, resulting in fines and suspensions.

On the Marc

The Grizzlies’ streak of seven-straight playoff appearances will come to an end. They have the NBA’s worst record and one very frustrated center.

Marc Gasol voiced it in an interview with the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“Winning is what this is about,” Gasol said. “It’s not about somebody playing well or getting, your reps or developing players. Because we have a league for that . . . This is the NBA, not the G League.”

Things would be different for the Grizzlies if they hadn’t lost Mike Conley Jr. to a foot injury after 12 games. They took a 12-game losing streak into Saturday. When asked how he’s dealing with all this losing, Gasol said, “Red wine helps at night.”

Fast breaks

n Willy Hernangomez, who the Knicks traded to Charlotte for two second-round picks last month, was scoreless through his first five games with the Hornets. But he got on the board Friday, scoring six points in 16 minutes in a loss to the 76ers.

*n With six weeks left, five teams already have exceeded or matched their win totals from all of last season: Timberwolves (+7), 76ers (+6), Pelicans (+1), Lakers (+1) and Nets (even).


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