Kristaps Porzingis did not play Thursday night against the Nets, but don’t take it as a sign that the Knicks have entered full tank mode yet.
The 7-3 forward was recovering from a bruised thigh sustained in Tuesday’s win over the Pacers, but he and head coach Jeff Hornacek expect him to return for the West Coast road trip which begins Monday.
“I’m already feeling better,” Porzingis said. “So just one or two more days.”
Despite the injury not being serious, it does raise the question: Should Hornacek start benching starters in an effort to improve the Knicks’ lottery chances in the draft?
The Knicks entered Thursday’s game 27-41, one loss away from assuring their fourth consecutive losing season and six games out of eighth place with 14 games left to play.
Hornacek conceded that the Knicks won’t be in the playoffs prior to Tuesday’s game, but neither he nor Porzingis are keen to resting starters in an effort to tank.
“We’ll continue to play like we do,” said Hornacek. “If something comes down from management or if something happens then we’ll change.”
Porzingis, meanwhile, scoffed at the idea of sitting out games, even if healthy.
“No, no. What are you talking about,” Porzingis said. “If I’m healthy I want to be out there.”
Jeff Hornacek conceded that the Knicks won’t be in the playoffs earlier in the week.
Porzingis especially would like to finish out the season because he has been so injury-prone throughout his first two seasons.
The Knicks forward began his career with questions about his body type and durability and eventually missed 10 games his rookie season due to injuries, including the final seven games with a shoulder injury.
Porzingis has now missed 10 games this season, too.
“This is the tough part now, to finish the season,” he said. “For me, the mindset is just going out there every day and giving my all. That way once the season is over you have no feeling of regret.”
Porzingis has also uncharacteristically voiced frustrations with this season, saying that there is confusion “from top to bottom,” after they’ve seemingly gone back-and-forth re-integrating the triangle back into their offense, but says he feels he has progressed in some areas.
“We worked a lot on individual stuff. It wasn’t just one thing, a lot of it was driving, kicking the ball, movement, that sort of stuff,” he said.
While Porzingis hopes to finish the season strong and healthy, Hornacek wants to use the final 14 games as a building block for next year.
“I think all us coaches assume all the guys will be back for next year,” he said. “We have to do a couple things now to see if we can build something next year. (The starters) might be in there at the end of the season or we’ll take those guys out but for now we’ll play as is. “