Knicks Starting Five: Kristaps Porzingis struggling for spotlight

1. You‘re gonna make me lonesome when you go

When the Knicks pulled the trigger on the trade to send Carmelo Anthony out of town, the deal brought with it a number of issues. Would the team sink without the franchise centerpiece? Would Madison Square Garden turn ugly without the star who had been the highest-paid and highest-profile player?

But most of all, how would Kristaps Porzingis respond to taking over as the franchise building block?

And perhaps the most pleasant surprise of this season was how quickly the 22-year-old Porzingis took to the role. With Anthony gone, Porzingis averaged 30.4 points per game over the first 11 games of the season, earning “M-V-P” chants at Madison Square Garden.

But as the season wore on an odd thing has happened. Without Tim Hardaway Jr. for the last 20 games the Knicks needed another scoring option and turned to Michael Beasley, who has emerged as an efficient and reliable scorer, befitting his status as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. But as Beasley has emerged, and the Knicks left to find a way to fit those two together. 

“He’s very effective the way he scores,” Porzingis said.  “Once he gets going he can make huge plays for us. We just have to find a way to involve other people so everybody can be part of the offense and be effective for the team. If he has moments like that we just give him the ball and let him go to work.”

2. Tonight’s the night?

Tim Hardaway Jr. wouldn’t rule himself out of action for tonight’s game in Minnesota when he spoke to reporters Thursday and the team called him questionable. If you read between the lines it sounds like maybe he won’t play because he spoke about playoffs and this isn’t playoffs, but until tonight it is a guessing game.

“If it was playoffs then I would [play] obviously,” Hardaway Jr. told reporters after Thursday’s practice. “But, regular season, you know the guys are out there fighting hard. Time will tell. I’ve still got to make sure I get evaluated and make sure I’m good to go,” said Hardaway, who claimed his third straight workout left him with “more confidence, more rhythm, just trying to get my legs and everything — wind — back up to pace with these guys.”

3. Getting mighty crowded

When Hardaway does return, tonight or Sunday or somewhere along the seven-game road trip that follows, it will signal a change of plans for Hornacek and a tough one. When Porzingis was averaging 304. points per game in that fast start Beasley was averaging just 4.9 points per game. But since Hardaway went out of the lineup, Beasley has averaged 16.6 points on 52.7 percent shooting.

“When Tim was playing, we had 11 guys (playing),” Hornacek told reporters Thursday. “It could be situational. Lance has done a great job defending some of these guys. When Tim was here, there were nights when Lance didn’t play. There were nights that Mike didn’t play. It’ll probably end up going back when Tim’s at full health and playing the bigger minutes it may go back to that.”

4. Baby it’s cold outside

The Timberwolves better make good trades because any player who has been here on a day like today is going to be looking for a lot of money to come here. High temperature today – 4 degrees with a wind chill of -16.

TOUGH GOING:

HEARTBREAKER:

KNICKS:

5. Welcome to the working week

While the Knicks prepare to face the Timberwolves led by former Knicks’ assistant coach Tom Thibodeau there is good news out of Charlotte on another old Knicks’ assistant. Hornets head coach Steve Clifford was cleared medically to return to the sidelines next week after more than a month away from the team. While the Hornets did not reveal the issue, he missed a game against the Knicks in 2013 when he underwent a procedure to place two stents into his heart.

popper

By