Adjustments Needed for KP, Knicks

5 Thoughts on the Loss to Wizards:

1. We’ve arrived at that moment that tests the patience of the triumphantly impatient New York fan. This is where emails and texts are saved, tweets are screengrabbed and hot takes are put in the freezer for potential mea culpas and a feast of words produced by frustration.

Kristaps Porzingis has looked tired for about a month now. We’ve discussed it here for weeks. The ankle injury, then the knee injury and the loss of Tim Hardaway Jr., has contributed to the 22-year-old’s midseason crisis. Even he surrendered to it after another poor shooting night in another loss on a back-to-back.

Bill Pidto and Wally Szczerbiak look at how the Knicks lost control of their contest against the Wizards in the third quarter.

“I’m tired, I’m tired,” he repeated. “I’m so tired right now.”

It certainly looks it. And whether you like it or not, this is something you, and the Knicks, have to endure with him. The first two months of the season showed his star potential when he’s at full strength. He averaged 27 points a game on 46% shooting in the first 18 games of the season. That was not an aberration. That’s KP at his best.

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Over the last month, we’re not seeing him at his best. Fatigued and frustrated with just 21 points per game over the past 13 games and shooting 39.9%. It’s even lower in the last 8 games, as his scoring average has dipped to 19 points per game on 36% shooting.

But this goes beyond performance as teams game plan to stop him with the idea that the Knicks don’t have enough talent to win with anyone else. Michael Beasley proved that wrong once against the Celtics, but for the most part it’s been the formula that has sent the Knicks into this tailspin of six losses out of the last seven games.

[Dyer: Beasley Becoming Perfect Glue Guy?]

Here’s the bigger issue: Porzingis saw this happen to Carmelo Anthony over the last two years and realizes the losing is now on him. So not only is he trying to get himself right, he has the responsibility of the team’s success weighing on his mind, as well.

Whether you want to hear it nor not, the reality is this is all part of the education of a young player.

“The mental part doesn’t help at all,” Porzingis admitted. “When it’s mentally tough, you don’t have it in you.”

Kristaps Porzingis talks about why it's much more difficult to play without Tim Hardaway in the lineup and whether he thinks he's getting more calls from the refs.

These are alarming words. You expect him to lead the way by being more determined and more resilient. You want him to put the team on his back and will them to a win, which, don’t forget, he did in New Orleans only last weekend.

He needs to adjust, not just physically but mentally, to the challenge right now as the Knicks slip two games under .500 and down to 10th in the East. KP had two goals going into this season: one for the team (playoffs) and one for himself (all-star).

The Knicks also need to adjust for him. Jeff Hornacek echoed something we suggested here a few blogs ago in that KP needs to get easy baskets using his skill set beyond the post.

“He’s got to use his athletic ability running up the court,” Hornacek said.

Jeff Hornacek holds his post-game press conference after the Knicks' 123-103 loss to the Wizards in Washington.

Teams are making his life miserable on the post-up and he is taking a physical beating trying to hold position against defenders who go right at his legs. So, yes, busting it up the floor looking for quick finishes and dunks would be great. Here’s the issue: when you are mentally fatigued, you lose the aggressive nature needed to stay in attack mode.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: KP needs his Mark Jackson point guard. So much more would open up for him if he could play off of an attacking point guard who was a threat to get into the paint and score.

2. Jarrett Jack has given everything he has, but you’re seeing as we get deeper into the season that teams are daring him to go into the paint. So over the last 10 games as he’s looked to score more (7-of-10 games in double figures), his shooting percentage has dipped (40.9% and 16.7% from three).

Hornacek is often seen pleading with Jack to push the pace more and get into transition, while Jack routinely falls into a penchant to walk the ball up the court and methodically run the offense instead of attacking. Hornacek, after the loss to the Wizards, called out the starters for not playing physical enough and for having a poor start out of the half that was the difference in the game.

“I put a lot of that on my shoulders,” Jack said. “Me being the point guard, I’ll take that on my shoulders, knowing that is my duty to make sure everybody’s out there, focused, ready to take on the task at hand.”

Jarrett Jack laments the play of the Knicks' starting five in the loss to the Wizards and comments on what went wrong against Washington.

It does start with him and as we near the mid-point of the season, it’s worth wondering when Hornacek opts to go with Frank Ntilikina as the starting point guard or when the front office looks to make a move via trade market or the G-League (Trey Burke) to upgrade that position.

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3. It will be easier to move Ntilikina into the starting role if the losses continue to mount and the playoffs become less of a reality. No one wants to think about that right now, but remember the trade deadline is early this season — Feb. 8 — so teams will have to declare their ambitions in a month.

Right now the Knicks sit one game back of the 8th spot in the East, so the playoffs are still very much the motivation. The play the Heat (20-17) in Miami on Friday and a win would move them within 1.5 of the 7th spot. For those fans who are quick to bring up lottery positioning whenever a team goes through a few losses, the Knicks are three games ahead of Brooklyn with Charlotte, Chicago, Orlando and Atlanta way back in the distance.

But if you can’t keep yourself from walking the streets of NegativeTown, here’s the guy you may want to keep an eye on: Trae Young, the freshman point guard from Oklahoma who has drawn comparisons to Steph Curry and Steve Nash.

Young is averaging 29 points and 10 assists so far this season and is emerging as one of the top college players in the country. Another great point guard to keep an eye on is Collin Sexton from Alabama, who averages 20 points a game and shoots a high percentage from three (48.4%), but isn’t the passer that Young has proven to be so far this season.

4. Getting back to present tense, you have to love that Michael Beasley has become the voice of reason in the locker room as the season hits a crisis of confidence.

“One thing we can’t do is get down on ourselves,” Beasley said. “We do a bad job of that. When we give up one or two or three in a row, we kind of hang out heads before we get back into it.

Michael Beasley speaks to the media after scoring 20 points in the Knicks' loss to the Wizards.

“If we want to be a good team, even a great team, we’ve got to go with the flow of the game; realize they’re going to go on runs, we’re going to go on runs. But our runs will be a lot harder if we get down.”

Beasley scored 11 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter as he tried to get the Knicks back into the game after that troubling third quarter that saw the Wizards break the game open.

5. Ron Baker wore a mask to protect his left eye and the orbital bone that was broken by Anthony Davis last weekend. Baker, who will wear the mask for about a month, played 19 minutes and had 4 points and 3 assists with a steal and two fouls.

It’s a cool looking mask that Baker decided to accessorize with a headband. Brendan Brown of the MSG Radio Network referenced “Napoleon Dynamite” when describing Baker’s new look.

So which Knick is Uncle Rico?

“While you’re out there playing patty cake with your friend Anthony Davis, your Uncle Rico is making 120 bucks.”

Baker gets beat up but he never gives in and that’s why he’s popular among his teammates and the coaching staff.

For instance, most NBA players would have just watched Davis sail in for the dunk. Baker couldn’t stop himself.

“I’m not big on watching another guy dunk in your basket,” he told ESPN’s Ian Begley before the game. “So I was trying to send him to the line to earn his point.”

Social media certainly had fun with the mismatch and the result. Baker said he “got a kick out of it” too.

“None of that stuff gets under my skin,” he told Begley. “There’s a lot of people on the other end of that phone that will never say they were dunked on by Anthony Davis, so I think I’m in good company.”

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