Without Derrick Rose (back) and Carmelo Anthony (shoulder) this was already a daunting task, but despite the loss, it could prove in time to be another valuable lesson in the growth and development of Kristaps Porzingis.
Yes, we’re focusing on him a lot these days, but for good reason. The future of this franchise, and it’s hopes to one day be a team at the elite level of a Golden State, rests on his shoulders. So despite going for just 8 points on 4-of-13 shooting, there’s always an opportunity to learn for a young player in the NBA.
Porzingis said he was looking forward to seeing Warriors stopper Draymond Green, and after the game, Green tried to use an innocuous quote by Porzingis — “I’m ready for him,” he said — as some means of motivation. Green played KP physical and the Warriors ran at him with double-teams, and also buzzed the tower often on his attempts. We already know Porzingis isn’t yet strong enough to deal with a real physical defense and not experienced enough to get the benefit of the whistle.
In three games so far against Green and the Warriors, Porzingis is averaging eight points on 25 percent shooting. He made just eight shots in 32 attempts.
Green said KP’s quote annoyed him, but did say he liked the young Knicks‘ passion.
“I like the ‘dog’ that he has,” Green told reporters after the game. “I like that he wanted to see me again. But keep that to yourself.”
Green went on to call Porzingis “a great player” and that he “will continue to get better and better.” He then added, “but he made it real personal.”
All that manufactured drama aside, KP showed that while he has come a long way in one year, he still has so much further to go before he can challenge the likes of a Draymond Green.
But that is something many young players endure. Remember Steph Curry in his first few seasons? What about Anthony Davis? Look no further than Kevin Durant, the one who came up with the “Unicorn” moniker for Porzingis, as proof that there is a development process to endure.
That’s what makes the presence of Melo and Rose so valuable to Porzingis. They aren’t stunting his growth, they are insulating it. And the idea is that when he is ready to emerge as the centerpiece, LeBron James will be finally on the decline, sort of like when Michael Jordan and the Bulls came up as Larry Bird and the Celtics were wearing down.
It won’t happen overnight. It will take more time and some patience and, yes, nights like these against established teams like the Warriors.
But if he, or the Knicks, aren’t building and learning off these experiences, that is a much bigger loss than being beat by the Cavs or by a Warriors team that was essentially in cruise control.
One issue that’s quite evident beyond KP’s own lower body physical strength is the need for better perimeter shooting when he is the focal point. A 5-for-21 effort isn’t going to make the defense honest. It allows doubles to come freely and without punishment. Porzingis is so tall, he can pass out of doubles over most defenders, and that’s something he is going to have to add to his repertoire.
In the meantime, the Knicks need to get their team defense figured out quickly. They’ve been getting away with a lot of undisciplined stuff at that end during their run of success and it’s starting to catch up to them.
The Denver Nuggets are finally healthy and can put up a lot of points, and will run you out of the gym if you aren’t ready. With or without Rose and Melo, this is a tough getaway game to end the trip and the Knicks need to win it to clinch a winning record on the trip.
Pregame coverage of Knicks Game Night begins Saturday at 8:30 PM on MSG.