So this is how it all ends?
Kristaps Porzingis’ beautiful breakout season, the one that began with his setting a Knicks record by scoring 300 points in his first 10 games, ended in the most ugly of fashions with him rolling around underneath the basket and clutching his left knee.
MRI? It was more like MR-Cry. At least that’s how many Knicks fans felt Tuesday night after the team announced that the test had shown that their star has a torn left ACL. Not only does that mean Porzingis is out for the season. He likely won’t be back for the start of next season if you go by the average time it takes to rehab such injuries. Former Knick Derrick Rose took 16 months to come back from his torn ACL, while Iman Shumpert took nine months.
That’s right. Two days before Thursday’s trade deadline, less than two weeks before Porzingis was scheduled to play in his first All-Star Game, the whole thing goes poof in the second quarter against the Bucks. Porzingis injured himself after converting a dunk and landing awkwardly on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot.
Porzingis left the game to get an MRI on his left knee, and the team announced at 11 p.m. that he had torn an ACL in his left knee.
Oh, the heartbreak. Oh, the bad timing. The injury and its timing only served to underscore just what a precarious position this team and its fans are in as they commit to building a team around the less-than-durable Porzingis.
There is no doubt that the Latvian big man is an incredible young talent, one who has been fully embraced by Knicks fans. His emergence into a legitimate superstar this season has been amazing to witness, and his team has played well enough around him to be sporadically thrilling even if they aren’t likely to make it to the playoffs.
Porzingis was averaging a team-high 22.9 points and 6.7 rebounds. His 2.4 blocks led the NBA. By playing so well, he basically accelerated his own growth. Yet, despite those gaudy numbers, Porzingis hasn’t been the sturdiest of superstars. He previously missed two games with a left knee issue and two due to an ankle injury. In all, he has missed seven games this season and 33 over the course of his 2 1⁄2 seasons in the NBA.
Heading into Tuesday night’s game, the Knicks’ most immediate problems were that they had lost three straight and big man Willy Hernangomez was looking to be traded to a team where he could get some playing time.
The big debate heading into the trade deadline was whether the Knicks should try to find the type of player who could help them make an improbable playoff push or go the more sensible route of trading older players like Courtney Lee for future picks or someone that would help them build around their young core of Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Frank Ntilikina.
“It’s deflating because he’s a big part of what we’re trying to build around,” coach Jeff Hornacek said in his postgame news conference before knowing the extent of the injury. “A lot of stuff runs through him.”
A lot of stuff, and a lot of hope. Porzingis is the Knicks’ most important draft pick since Patrick Ewing, a guy who fans hope that they will one day be able to name an era after. This All-Star game was supposed to be his coming-out party, a sure sign that he had arrived and that the Knicks were on their way.
Instead, it will just be a painful reminder of what the Knicks don’t have.