The Knicks do not possess, as Phil Jackson called it, a “Rolls Royce.” There is only one of them – LeBron James — and he plays for the Cavs. (And he also happens to be angry with the Knicks president. But that’s another story.)
LeBron is absolutely one of a kind but he’s also not available. Perhaps we can interest you in a fully loaded BMW, Latvian edition.
There is also just one of those and fortunately for the Knicks – as well as Phil’s legacy here – he belongs to New York.
A seismic shift is developing at Madison Square Garden and its being caused by a 7-foot-3 kid with an incredibly unique skill set. The Knicks are slowly but surely evolving into Kristaps Porzingis’ team. It is an inevitable and necessary transformation for the franchise.
And there is no stopping it. The fans, chanting “M-V-P” in the fourth quarter, can sense it as well.
“It was huge,” Porzingis said of the support following the Knicks 105-102 victory. “It kept me going. I had 25 at the half. I wanted to go for 40.”
Porzingis didn’t reach 40 but he did set his career-high on Wednesday, scoring 35 points. And really, all that prevented him from challenging 50 was a combination of Detroit deciding to pay closer attention to the second year forward and the Porzingis’ teammates occasionally ignoring him early in the third quarter.
And that’s the challenge in the coming weeks and months. Carmelo Anthony remains the most accomplished player on the team. He’s always going to be a focal point on the offensive end. On Wednesday, he scored 22 on 17 shots. Derrick Rose is the youngest MVP in NBA history, he’s playing for a contract and he has the ball in his hands. Rose scored 15 on 15 shots.
The sooner the team develops trust in Porzingis and realizes that Porzingis creating mismatches makes everyone better, the Knicks will become a more formidable team. From all indications, Carmelo and Rose are on board. The Knicks have to get Porzingis accept that role.
Jeff Hornacek is starting to understand the impact Kristaps Porzingis can make.
As a rookie, Porzingis naturally wanted to blend in. He deferred to his more experienced teammates, said all the right things and as a result he became popular not only among the fans but more importantly, inside the locker room.
In Year 2, the natural step to become more selfish even if that is not in Porzingis’ DNA. Remember, just two weeks ago Porzingis went 0-for-4 in a loss to the Houston Rockets. Four shots are not enough. Against the Pistons, Porzingis attempted 22 shots, one shy of his career high while matching his career best with 13 makes. He also played a team-high 40 minutes.
Coincidentally, after Detroit reduced a 12-point deficit to two with 31 seconds left, the Knicks spread the floor and ran an isolation play for Anthony. Old habits die hard. Carmelo missed a long fade away but Courtney Lee snared the rebound and Rose’s free throw with 3.6 seconds left made it 105-102.
Jeff Hornacek is starting to understand the impact Porzingis can make. For the second straight game, the Knicks best lineup featured Porzingis at center with Carmelo playing forward. That meant benching Joakim Noah, Phil’s $72 million man, again. That’s not an easy call for Hornacek. But it is the right call.
Porzingis moves better but he also needs to become more a factor on both ends of the court. He did erase a lay-up attempt from Jon Leuer and then slapped hands with a few courtside fans as he ran the floor. His competitive spirit and personality make him easy to root for.
This all came at the perfect time for Jackson, who has been under siege the last several days for referring to LeBron’s childhood friends and business partners as a “posse.” LeBron didn’t like it. Neither did Carmelo.
Jackson desperately needed a diversion. He found it in Porzingis, the player he drafted. And from here on out, the Knicks need to find him more often.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News