GREENBURGH, N.Y. – There is little question about the potential that Kristaps Porzingis possesses, his unique skill sets making him the easy choice as the successor to Carmelo Anthony as the face of the Knicks franchise.
But there is one nagging question, one that has lingered since his first workout with the Knicks before the draft in 2015. Can a slender 7-foot-3 unicorn stay healthy?
Porzingis sat out the scrimmages in Thursday’s practice session after the team shut him down with a sore right knee. Porzingis, who left the practice to head for the trainer’s room to receive treatment, was unavailable for comment.
But it’s a question worth asking – if Porzingis can hold up to the task of being the player who the Knicks will count on moving forward.
“I think his knee just got a little sore there, so we wanted to stop him from running at that point,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “I think (it’s minor). …
“I don’t think (he’s fragile). The way the NBA has now scheduled games I think they’ve made it so you’re not having to decide if you have to rest a guy or not. So there’s going to be plenty of every other day games and it’s on us to figure out if the guys are getting worn out. Sometimes if they’re too tired that’s when they might get injured. Some of that’s with age. Some of that’s with his size. But he’s worked hard this summer to get bigger and stronger and to be able to battle through that, and he wants to try and do that. I don’t anticipate (that). Keep our fingers crossed that he plays as many as possible.”
Porzingis suffered an injury that shut down his predraft workout for the Knicks, missed some time in his first training camp with a sore knee and has finished both of his first two seasons on the sidelines with an assortment of injuries.
He sat out 10 games in his rookie season and 16 last season. This year he reported stronger and quicker after a summer of rigorous training, but he also played for the Latvian National Team in Eurobasket, adding to his workload, although he missed part of the schedule leading up to the championships in Europe with knee soreness.
“They’ve talked to coaches from these teams and I think KP is pretty good where he didn’t practice every day,” Hornacek said. “They were aware of that. All those friendly games he had, he didn’t play in all of those. They helped us out with that. They’re not killing him out there. I think it’s been a good balance. He got the experience, he got in good shape and so far (he’s) looked good.”
With the additional workload over the summer Hornacek said he has and will continue to monitor Porzingis to keep him from getting fatigued.
“Yeah, we’ve got to keep an eye on it,” he said. “We obviously are establishing some nice things here in training camp, so want to keep that momentum. He’s a big part of being out there with these guys doing that.
“I thought we’d have to look at it, if we were doing a whole bunch of ups and downs, I try to put him on a team with maybe him and WIlly, (Hernangomez, who also played in the Eurobasket championships), you know, a team with the extra guys, so we want him to rotate in a little more and get a little break that way but still be a big part of it.”
His teammates have been impressed with the improvement in his game.
“He’s focused,” Lance Thomas said. “He’s stronger, he’s quicker, but most importantly, something that I admire right now is that he’s focused. He’s really paying attention to what’s going on. He’s really sharp with everything right now and I think that’s big time right now, this early on in training camp, to see a high level of focus for a player like that is big time.”