PHILADELPHIA – The long road back for Kristaps Porzingis begins Tuesday in a Manhattan hospital where the Knicks franchise player will have surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
The Knicks, 108-92 losers to the Sixers on Monday, still won’t say definitively when Porzingis is having season-ending knee surgery and the club has yet to provide the name of the orthopedic surgeon who will perform the operation. A source close to the third-year forward confirmed an ESPN report that Porzingis’ surgery will be Tuesday.
The Knicks have been less than forthcoming with updates, which could be related to Porzingis and the club not always being on the same page when it comes to his medical treatment and training program. Porzingis spent all of last summer training in Latvia working out with his own personal trainer and using his own personal doctor.
The Knicks Orthopedist is Dr. Answorth A. Allen, who is one of the top surgeons in his field. Dr. Allen performed Ron Baker’s season-ending shoulder surgery last week. If Dr. Allen is not the attending physician for Porzingis’ surgery it could be related to Porzingis previous issues with the front office over his medical treatment.
“All I know is he’s having the surgery,” Hornacek said before the Knicks lost their seventh straight. “He wanted to get it done as fast as he could so he could start rehabbing. We’re all hoping it all goes well. It’s good that he’s going to get it done now. It’s unfortunate he’s going to miss All-Star Weekend. He wants to get back on the court as soon as he can. He’s going to have it and get back.”
The 7-foot-3 Porzingis could be sidelined anywhere from nine to 13 months. Considering the nature of the injury and that Porzingis is a critical piece of the Knicks future, he may not play again until January 2019 at the earliest.
Porzingis entered the season having missed a total of 26 games over his first two seasons, and by the start of the 2018-19 season he will have missed 60 games. Hornacek admitted that the journey to being a full-time NBA player is just beginning for the Porzingis.
“It seems like that,” he said. “In the big scheme of things the guy is probably going to play 15, 18 years in this league. He’s 22 years old. It’s a little bit of a mountain he’s got to climb for a year.
“He’ll look back at this and probably be glad he went through it and got stronger. When you hit adversity and you bounce back that says a lot about your character.”
The Knicks (23-34) continue to slide into irrelevancy and are on pace to lose at least 50 games for fourth straight year while the Sixers look like a playoff team.
In his second game since arriving from Denver in a three-team trade, Emmanuel Mudiay struggled and was outclassed in the second half by Sixers backup point guard T.J. McConnell, who beat the Knicks last season on a buzzer beater.
In 19 minutes, Mudiay finished with seven points on 3-for-7 shooting and seven points. He was a minus-18. Meanwhile, McConnell recorded a triple double – 10 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists – and also had six steals. When McConnell grabbed his 10th rebound to secure the triple double, his teammates and Sixers fans cheered wildly.
Tim Hardaway Jr. was 0 for 8 on 3-pointers and is five for his last 44 from behind the arc.
“I wish I could make a (bleeping) shot,” he said.
Dario Saric led the Sixers (29-25) with 24 points while Joel Embiid scored 18 and Ben Simmons 13. The Sixers know a thing about a long process. They’ve suffered through five losing seasons since winning a first round series during the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Philadelphia went from losing 48 games to 63, 64, 72 and 54 last season. The Sixers went full tank mode and did well in drafting Embiid and Simmons. They also missed on Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and last June’s top overall pick, Markelle Fultz, who is sidelined with a shoulder injury.
The Knicks have their 2018 first round pick but the draft is not an exact science. If you miss with a high pick it can set you back. The Knicks struck it big by drafting Porzingis fourth overall in 2015 but they’ve only seen a marginal increase in their win total.
And now Porzingis is out, perhaps as long an entire calendar year. The journey is only beginning.