KP Scores Personal Goal, Eyes Bigger Picture

5 Thoughts on The Loss:

1. For a ninth straight year, the Knicks will be represented at the All-Star Game. For those who may have forgotten, there was a time when the Knicks went eight straight years (2002-09) without an All-Star in the game.

But what makes this year special is that Kristaps Porzingis is a home-grown talent. He is a lottery pick that is now an All-Star. That’s important to a franchise.

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Kristaps Porzingis became the first Latvian and second-youngest Knick to earn an All-Star nod. The Knicks' young star speaks about what the honor means to him and gives an update on his sore knee.

There haven’t been many of these over the last 40 years.

Porzingis is just the sixth player drafted by the Knicks since 1978 to represent the team in the NBA All-Star Game. He joins a group that includes David Lee, Patrick Ewing, Mark Jackson, Micheal Ray Richardson and Bill Cartwright.

At 22, he’s just days younger than Cartwright was when he was an All-Star in 1980. Cartwright and Willis Reed were both 22 when they made their All-Star debuts.

KP’s numbers in the first quarter of the season made him a lock to be an All-Star. His numbers since have fallen off, especially through December. But he is very much deserving of being an All-Star based on his performances this season and when you compare him to other forwards in the East, he is clearly among the most talented.

It was a goal he acknowledged in the preseason that he hoped to achieve this year. For any player, to reach All-Star status in your third season means you have arrived in the league.

For a franchise, it means you have something special.

2. With that in mind, there was a lot of reaction from fans on social media about Porzingis sitting out the game in Golden State on the same night he is named an All-Star. KP tweaked his knee attempting to block a shot in practice on Monday and it felt stiff on Tuesday morning before the shoot-around.

“It didn’t feel right,” Porzingis said.

Jeff Hornacek said before the trip that there might be a scenario where Porzingis sits out one of the games out West, just to keep him healthy and strong. The thinking was one of the games of the back-to-back to end this trip — at Denver, at Phoenix — but the knee issue made it more of a priority to sit out against the Warriors.

Alan Hahn and Wally Szczerbiak head to box score to break down the performances from Michael Beasley and Kevin Durant.

The fact that it was the Warriors, of course, drew everyone’s attention. KP hasn’t had much success against Golden State and, especially, Draymond Green. In four career games against them, KP averages just 12 points and shot just 17-for-53. He struggles.

So if there was a game to take off, this most certainly was the one.

However, the Knicks are desperate for wins and came off another bad loss to the Lakers. Shouldn’t he want to be in the lineup?

For KP, this was the seventh game he missed so far this season out of 48. He played 72 as a rookie and 66 last season. It would be good for him to reach at least the 70 game mark, just to show an important development in one of his abilities: durability.

Remember that Joel Embiid, who was voted an All-Star starter ahead of KP, appeared in just 31 games last season and has played in 34-of-43 games so far this season. Anthony Davis began his career as an injury-riddled player. His first four seasons: 64 games, 67 games, 68 games and 61 games. He played in 75 games last season.

Clearly, Porzingis, and the Knicks, are looking at the bigger picture with him and this season. And after achieving one goal, to become an All-Star, the next goal is to stay healthy for the rest of the season.

There’s also another goal: making the playoffs.

“I still believe the playoffs are achievable for us, that’s the goal for us,” Porzingis said. “Nobody’s expecting us to win a championship this year, but there are ups and downs during a season.”

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3. Speaking of draft picks the Knicks are being patient in developing, let’s talk about Frank Ntilikina. This road trip started off so promising with his 10 point, 10 assist, 7 rebound performance in Brooklyn. But since the team left New York, Ntilikina has gone back to looking hesitant and, at times, overwhelmed.

It’s to be expected. He’s 19. There’s a lot of learning to do on the fly and a lot coming at him on the court. Hornacek has the option to sit him out and move Trey Burke into the rotation, but the coach has resisted that in favor of staying with the rookie.

In the four games since Brooklyn, Ntilikina has a total of 13 points and 11 assists with 7 turnovers. He’s a -19 on the court in 61 minutes of playing time. He’s made just 6-of-17 from the field and continually looks to pass rather than shoot.

It’s been a struggle, but Hornacek is sticking with him.

4. In Porzingis’ absence, Michael Beasley once again took advantage of the starting role and the minutes. He’s really had a remarkable this season to date. Beasley had 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting against Green, one of the NBA’s best defenders. He had a stretch in the second quarter where he was almost unstoppable as the Knicks built a surprising 10-point lead.

And after the game, one of his longtime friends from his days growing up in Maryland, Kevin Durant, offered an interesting take on Beasley’s talent, which for most of his career was overshadowed by his off-the-court issues and inability to stick with a franchise.

“I said in a comment earlier this year, before the season, when he said he was just as skilled as LeBron and myself, I was feeling him on that,” Durant said. “I was feeling him because he is. He can score from anywhere. He can score on anybody. He can use both hands.

But there’s something else that separates, you know what I’m saying? I think that’s just the difference: the mental part of it. And he’s got the foundation of his game set. It’s just time to build on top of it.”

Beasley just turned 29, so he’s somewhat in the latter stages of his prime years, but still in his prime. Is he just getting to his potential now? What do the Knicks — or any other team — make of him as he becomes a free agent this summer?

His stats suggest a player who is an efficient scorer: 12.8 points per game in 19.7 minutes on 52.5% shooting from the field. His Per 36 numbers project him to be an All-Star: 23.4 points per 36 minutes and 9.1 rebounds per 36 minutes.

He’s on a veteran’s minimum contract this season and it could have been his last chance at the NBA. But this season, he could be playing himself into a redemption contract.

5. The road trip rolls on to Denver and then Phoenix in a back-to-back that is now of utmost importance. After giving games away in Memphis and L.A., the Knicks almost have to take these two games to salvage the trip and stay very much in the race for the playoffs.

Hornacek said he just wanted to focus on the next game, which is in Denver. So we’ll do that.

The Knicks haven’t won in Denver in 11 years.

That was Nov. 8, 2006. Five games into my career as a Knicks beat writer for Newsday and the early days of the original Knicks Fix blog. The team started 1-3 that season and this game appeared to be another loss before Jamal Crawford stole the ball from Eduardo Najera and drilled a game-winning three with 3.7 seconds left.

Crazy game. Crawford had 35 points in the game and 20 in the fourth quarter as the Knicks scored 36 in the final quarter to steal the win.

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