Kristaps Porzingis is trying to find a silver lining in the Knicks’ disappointing season. The team should try to find Porzingis more on offense.
This isn’t about tanking for a better draft pick. It’s about seeing if Porzingis can handle being the go-to guy, because that’s what management envisions happening in the very near future. If not, team president Phil Jackson would not have tried to deal Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose — the Knicks’ two most accomplished players — before the trade deadline.
The Knicks soon will be Porzingis’ team, maybe by next season. Why not start playing through him now to give him the valuable experience he needs?
“We still have Carmelo,” coach Jeff Hornacek said this past week. “We want to have a second option in there. KP’s a second-year guy. We need to get him to grow into some of those scenarios and give him some opportunities.
“We’re still trying to win games, and when it comes to that last shot, you’re looking, ‘OK, who’s going to hit it?’ Maybe it’s KP. Maybe it’s Carmelo. Maybe it’s Derrick. At least we have some options. KP’s going to get those opportunities at some point, whether it’s this year or next year. They’ll come.”
In Friday night’s three-point loss to the 76ers, Porzingis took one shot in the last five minutes and none in the last 4:40. The Knicks are trying to win games, trying to make an improbable playoff run, but Porzingis should be more involved, more of a focal point. That has to happen in the final 20 games.
Porzingis hasn’t played well consistently since the calendar turned to January. He’s been battling injuries, and his Achilles issue probably limited him more than he let on. But the popular assessment from NBA scouts and other league officials is that he is standing around too much, that Rose rarely looks for him and that the Knicks don’t run enough plays for him.
And Brandon Jennings, who often looked for Porzingis, was waived Monday and signed with the Wizards.
Maybe that’s why Porzingis said he likes the triangle offense, the system that’s supposed to get everyone involved. Most of his teammates aren’t fans of the triangle, but Porzingis said the Knicks should have been emphasizing it the way they are now since the start of the season.
In his first 30 games, Porzingis averaged 20.7 points and attempted 16.4 shots. In his last 22, he’s averaging 14.6 points and 12.6 shots.
Porzingis could help himself by developing a signature move or a post-up game. He plans to work with Dirk Nowitzki this offseason, and that’s a start. He also has to find other ways to impact the game.
But in the long run, Porzingis believes this season, and everything that has happened with him and with the team on and off the court, will help him as a professional and as a future go-to guy.
“I believe so,” he said. “To get there and be that guy, it’s not always a smooth way there. I think everybody has to go through this — losing seasons and stuff happening and injuries — that only makes you stronger mentally to be prepared for bigger things.
“I just got to keep learning and keep working. Sometimes I get frustrated because I work so hard and I’m not playing well. I’m like ‘Why?’ But it happens. I can affect what I can affect, and I focus on that. I always believe that if I keep working and I never lose focus, then the right thing will happen and I’ll be where I need to be.”
The Knicks can help get him where he needs to be by getting him more involved.