The scene was telling, and ominous.
Long before the announcement that sent a blowtorch to the Knicks season, Steve Mills and Scott Perry were spotted on the MSG telecast in a dark mood – their faces flustered with worry as Kristaps Porzingis crumbled to the floor, clutching his knee.
They knew, like the rest of the silent Garden, that this could be serious.
“He’s more than a basketball player, he’s my brother, man,” Enes Kanter, who stood over Porzingis writhing in pain, said. “I don’t want to see anybody just going down like that, holding his knee. That’s a tough feeling. He’s a young basketball player. He’s having fun. He’s about to be an All-Star. Just thinking everything that’s going through his mind, it’s tough, man. I’m just praying for him.”
With one awkward landing, the Knicks season went up in flames and their future beyond it fell in doubt. The doomsday scenario.
The franchise player tore his ACL on Tuesday after twisting his left knee following a dunk. He was helped off the court and underwent an MRI that confirmed the worst possible news – a season-ending injury that often requires a year for full recovery. It will force Porzingis to miss what would’ve been his first All-Star game this month. It will seep into the offseason when Porzingis is eligible for a $ 150 million contract extension. And it will assuredly carry over into next season, which is already looking like another wasted 82 games without their star player for much of it.
If Tuesday’s 103-89 loss to the Bucks was any indication about life without Porzingis, it will be a long, arduous and painful process for the Knicks. They were up by 1 when the Latvian landed on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot following a dunk attempt with nine minutes remaining in the second quarter.
By the middle of the third quarter, they were down by 20.
“When KP went down it kind of deflated us,” Jeff Hornacek conceded. “We got off to a decent start, I think we were up by 9 at one point. I think when he went out that’s a big part of the things we do. We weren’t able to sustain the earlier part of the game when he wasn’t in there.”
In December, Porzingis twisted his left knee – the same one he hurt Tuesday — while making a pass and missed two games with a pain he described as a “pinch.” In January, he rested against the Warriors after twisting his knee in practice.
Over three seasons, Porzingis has missed 33 games due to either injuries or illness. He went into this campaign with a new philosophy regarding rest and strength training, which he hoped would prevent injuries and preserve his body for the full season.
Unfortunately, there’s little that can be done to prevent acute injuries like Tuesday’s disaster.
It was the worst possible kind of night for the Knicks (23-32), who’ve lost four straight and should set their tunnel vision towards the draft. The idea of the playoffs – even as far-fetched as it seemed — should be officially scrapped.
The entire 48 minutes of game time was a trainwreck. After Porzingis went down, Hardaway Jr. was kicked in the same leg that caused him to miss 20 games this season with a stress reaction. He hobbled off the court in the fourth quarter and was hoping for the best – for himself and Porzingis.
“Damn!! Get Well soon,” Hardaway Jr. tweeted at Porzingis. “Praying on a speedy recovery.”
Kanter was hit in the mouth again, opening up the wound that has already been stitched up and re-stiched. The Knicks center said he will undergo oral surgery on Wednesday morning and hopes to play Thursday against the Raptors.
It was one bad omen after another, but only one real crisis.