New York Knicks: Harsh realities of life without Kristaps Porzingis
Dec 30, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) dunks over New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) during the second quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The injury bug has sapped the New York Knicks of late, taking their most important player, Kristaps Porzingis, in the process.

The New York Knicks are not a good basketball team right now.

Losers of five straight, the Knicks have seen their hot start to December virtually erased during their late month skid. In dropping consecutive games to the Celtics, Hawks, Pelicans, Rockets, and Magic, the Knicks now find themselves two games under .500 and in 10th place. Firmly on the outside of the playoff picture is not where the Knicks wanted to be just seven games away from the midway point of the NBA season.

So what exactly is ailing these once promising Knicks?

The easy answer is injuries. Health concerns abounded with all the veteran contracts the Knicks took on this off season, but few thought the most painful injury would come to the 7’3″ sophomore sensation who’s taking New York by storm.

The Knicks are learning to cope without Kristaps Porzingis.

While KP played the first three games of the losing streak, he also played in the three games that were the most understandable for the Knicks to lose. Christmas Day against Boston, then two road contests against Atlanta and a surging New Orleans team are far from the easiest games in the NBA.

In contrast, a loss to the Rockets on the road hurts, while losing to Orlando at home is simply inexcusable.

Without Porzingis, the Knicks desperately miss a rim protector to cover up their deficiencies in perimeter defense. When Melo or D-Rose let their assignment blow by them on a near nightly basis, KP is there to at least attempt to clean up the mess.

No other player on the Knicks, not Joakim Noah, not Willie Hernangomez, not Kyle O’ Quinn is capable of producing that kind of rim protection. It’s the reason that despite the fact that Porzingis is not known as a defensive player, he leads the team in blocks. It’s the reason that Noah struggles to defend the rim running big men of today’s NBA. And right now, it’s why the Knicks are struggling.

In addition to what Porzingis brings on defense, he also brings an impressive array of offensive skills that few players his size can replicate. Apart from Carmelo on certain nights, KP has undoubtedly become the number one scoring option for New York, and will continue to develop as he gets more mature.

However, without Porzingis, Melo’s isolation game becomes even more pronounced, and D-Rose’s penchant for not passing to anyone becomes more problematic. Thus, the offense stalls, and the Knicks are no longer good on either end of the basketball.

Of course, in the long term, this is precisely why teams stay away from big men. No player over 7’3″ has ever made it to his 1,000th NBA game as the larger bodies tend to break down sooner.

While Kristaps has certainly not shown the breakdown that we saw from players like Yao Ming or Shawn Bradley, he certainly presents a massive risk in the injury department. Certainly, a Knicks fan base who has watched nearly everything go wrong for over a decade will be cautious about his health.

Furthermore, it’s become abundantly clear over the past five games that unless the Knicks are fully healthy, it’s hard to imagine this team making the playoffs. With an injury prone roster of Rose, Noah, Melo, and now Porzingis, New York fans should stay on guard as they watch intently to see if Phil Jackson’s veteran experiment will work.

However, the most important component to the Knicks’ future is the development of Kristaps Porzingis, and it’s hard for him to develop as he attempts to get healthy. Knicks fans must hope for a speedy recovery, or they could be in big trouble the second half of the season.

Billy Nayden is an SMU Mustang from Connecticut born and raised on New York sports. Avid fan of nearly every sport from MMA to handball. His heart is in NYC, but Billy has seen games on multiple continents, and has frequented arenas ranging from high school gyms to world class meccas.