New York Knicks fans have recently witnessed unexpected struggles from franchise cornerstone, Kristaps Porzingis. Is it time to worry?
Every Knicks fan has dreamed of a player like Kristaps Porzingis their whole life.
A 7-foot-3 behemoth of a man, with the dexterity of a guard, the smooth shot of a seasoned veteran, and the shot blocking ability of a rim protector, Porzingis has become the apple of New York’s eye and the consummate future of the franchise.
He has taken a massive leap in his scoring ability this season, averaging 19.3 points per game on 45 percent shooting. In fact, Kristaps has been so good this season that the conversation over “whose team is this?” has demonstrably shifted to “this is Porzingis’ team.”
However, in the month of December, the Knicks’ young star has struggled mightily.
In five December games, KP is averaging only 13.8 points per game on just 31 percent shooting from the field. That’s a massive drop off from the huge numbers he put up in November, and should come as somewhat of a concern to Knicks fans.
Part of it could be related to Kristaps’ right knee, where he is reportedly feeling a “pinch,” and has received treatment for soreness. However, the injury is considered minor, the Knicks are monitoring it day to day, and even KP admits that the pain usually goes away after warmups. While it should certainly remain on fans’ radar, it seems unlikely that a minor right knee injury would affect Porzingis’ shot that drastically.
Perhaps the more likely option is that Porzingis is pressing to score more and take his game to the next level, which is exceptionally difficult to do at such a young age. As such, KP is forcing shots that he wouldn’t otherwise take and forgetting to focus on his mechanics. Thus, he shoots a far worse percentage and gets far fewer points, despite his massively improved offensive arsenal.
Luckily, New York head coach Jeff Hornacek was more than ready to address Kristaps’ struggles after the win against Sacramento. Hornacek had this to say to Stefan Bondy of the NY Daily News:
“When you try to score too much then it’s almost like you start pressing. Instead of letting it come, slowing it down a little bit. Sometimes he’s making a good hard move, and the first move is open, and he’s already got thought on what’s my second move. That happens when you’re a young player. I told him to take his time. Continue to remember that you’re 7-3. That you can just take your time and you’re still going to get your shot off.”
Despite Porzingis’ struggles, the Knicks have had no problem winning in the month of December. New York is 4-1 this month, with a number of other players stepping up on the scoring end, specifically Carmelo Anthony.
While Porzingis has struggled, Melo has been phenomenal in December, scoring 25 points per game on 43.9 percent shooting. He has become a much more efficient scorer and has carried the Knicks on multiple nights where their offense simply wasn’t clicking.
With that said, if the Knicks can keep riding Melo’s hot streak, while getting Porzingis back on track, they could be a force to be reckoned with in an Eastern Conference lacking in elite teams outside of Cleveland.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t read too much into Porzingis’ December struggles early on. Part of it could be knee-related, but there seems to be a lot of credence to Hornacek’s theory that Porzingis is just pressing right now, and will figure things out.
Young players frequently go through tough stretches as they try to improve their game, and Porzingis is no different. Knicks fans should remain hopeful that the future of their franchise can get back on track as New York continues to make a strong push towards its first playoff berth since the 2012-13 season.