Kristaps Porzingis might have reached his breaking point. It’s been long established that he is the future of the franchise, so with that in mind, it was time for him to start taking inventory and ownership of his environment.
“The whole situation is tough,” he said with an expression of anger after the loss to the Nets in Brooklyn.
The 21-year-old, who had made an effort to give standard answers to reporters about his team’s issues this season, took a long pause with a drawn out “Hmmm” when asked about his frustration level after the game.
“It’s pretty high,” he eventually said.
Kristaps Porzingis explains why the Knicks struggled in the first quarter against the Nets and what type of effort the team needs to give the rest of the season.
The obvious frustration is in the reality of a playoff berth disappearing on the horizon of a season with 15 games left, but perhaps even more in the fact that he called this almost 40 games ago when there was still great optimism in the potential of this team.
It was Dec. 20, after the Knicks completed a comeback win over the Indiana Pacers to improve to 15-13, when KP offered this ominous observation: “We’re not there yet. We play off our talent a lot.”
What he was suggesting was the Knicks, despite climbing as high as top four in the East with a 16-13 record going into Christmas Day against the Celtics, were getting away with a lot of wins early in the season. But he saw danger ahead in the way the team was playing.
“We’ve got to see the big picture,” he said at the time, “and keep growing.”
Instead, they have regressed since. The Knicks won that game after Porzingis offered that quote and it was the last time the team put consecutive wins together.
In the previous blog, I mentioned the absence of a defensive focus lost in the refocus on the Triangle Offense. Check the numbers before and after KP’s harbinger quote:
- First 29 games (16-13): 105.3 PPG / 107.6 Opp PPG
- Last 38 games (10-28): 105.7 PPG / 109.8 Opp PPG
Notice that the offense has stayed the same, while the defense, which was already ranking among the bottom third in the league, got worse.
Porzingis said the offense has been “very random” and seems to still do what KP said back in December, “…play off our talent a lot.” Porzingis noted that most of the offense is either himself, Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose or Courtney Lee trying to create something in one-on-one situations.
“That’s not how it’s supposed to be,” he said.
But the bigger concern is what KP said about defense, which seems to have been an ongoing experiment of coverages to fit the various lineups.
“It was like, ‘Maybe this will work, maybe this will work’,” he said. “It’s been a lot of confusion.”
At the very least, perhaps the Knicks have figured out that Porzingis has to be situated near the rim on defense to be the most effective on that end of the floor. We saw in the first half of the loss in Detroit last weekend that putting him on the wing to defend forwards is a not the best strategy. In that second half, and most of the game against the Nets, it was evident that KP is a very effective shot-blocker and shot-disrupter around the rim.
Did you see that Spencer Dinwiddie shot he cuffed in the fourth quarter in Brooklyn? Wow.
He did that with five fouls. His sixth came later in the quarter, but with a great deal of defiance that caught my attention. The hard foul he delivered on Jeremy Lin was some old-school, no-layup-rule type stuff, and was refreshing to see.
It shows this kid is ready to start imposing his will.
I’ll have more on KP’s recent block party in Tuesday’s pregame Knicks Fix on MSG Networks. In the meantime, tweet at me your best NCAA bracket of games that involve potential point guard targets in the upcoming NBA Draft. That’s what I’ll be watching for during March Madness.