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SportsColumnistsBarbara Barker

Is lack of durability Kristaps Porzingis’ biggest issue?

Despite his gaudy numbers, Porzingis has not been the sturdiest of superstars.

Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis is defended by Nets

Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis is defended by Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at Barclays Center on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Knicks have found a way to stay competitive without Tim Hardaway Jr. The question now is whether they are going to have to do it without Kristaps Porzingis.

Porzingis felt “a sharp pain” in his left knee after making a pass in the first half of the Knicks’ 111-104 victory over the Nets on Thursday night at Barclays Center. After trying to come back in the third quarter, he didn’t like the way the knee was responding and took himself out of the game.

Porzingis was standing in the locker room after the win and said he was not in pain. He is scheduled to have an MRI on Friday. It was not known how serious the injury is or whether he will be back for Saturday night’s game against Carmelo Anthony and Oklahoma City.

Any time missed by Porzingis would be a significant blow to the Knicks. He entered Thursday night’s game as the league’s No. 7 scorer with an average of 26.0 points and also was contributing 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a game.

Yet despite those gaudy numbers, Porzingis has not been the sturdiest of superstars. He missed two games earlier in the season after rolling his ankle in a game against the Heat. He missed a total of 26 games his first two seasons with various injuries, including Achilles tendinitis.

It’s hard not to love how the 7-3 Porzingis plays when he’s healthy. Yet at some point you have to start wondering if his lack of durability is the one thing that could keep him from greatness.

Coach Jeff Hornacek said after the game that he is not worried about his big man’s ability to avoid injury.

“No. It’s little things here or there,” Hornacek said. “We play 82 games. Especially in today’s game, guys are resting games. If he’s playing 75 or something like that, it would be a full season. Little times when he has bumps and bruises and stuff like that, we really have to take a look and make sure we don’t push him too fast.

“He wants to be out there, but we’re looking at the long term of the season. If he’s not feeling great, let’s not make it any worse.”

Porzingis would not predict that he’ll be back for Saturday’s game, but he didn’t seem overly concerned.

“It’s more just being cautious,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s not too serious . . .

“I’m walking around. I should have some bad pain right now, but I’m not. I think it’s just them being cautious.”

The injury overshadowed the fact that the Knicks had finally found a way to win on the road.

OK, Brooklyn isn’t exactly a road game. It’s more like a road game with training wheels. There were almost as many fans at Barclays Center in Knicks jerseys as in Nets jerseys. And only half of the Knicks players chose to spend Wednesday night at the team hotel instead of commuting.

Yet considering that the Knicks entered the night with a 1-8 mark away from Madison Square Garden, the worst road record in the league, we will have to acknowledge that they took a baby step forward.

Fortunately for the Knicks, the impact of their road woes has been minimized by the fact that they have played a relatively soft schedule at home, where they are 13-5. Beginning Dec. 27, the Knicks play 16 of 20 games on the road.

It looks as if they will be playing at least a portion of them without Hardaway, their No. 2 scorer, who is out with a stress injury in his lower leg. The question is whether they also will be without Porzingis.

New York Sports