New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis is Learning 'How to Be the Guy'
Mar 23, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) shoots the ball over Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu (8) during the first half of the game at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks‘ Kristaps Porzingis knows he has work to do before he can become the focal point of the offense.

The New York Knicks were without Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose on Thursday night against the Portland Trail Blazers. Two of New York’s three top scorers being out of the lineup due to soreness invoked more talk of tanking. To the rest of us it seemed like a case of organized losing, but for Kristaps Porzingis it was a chance to be the focal point of the offense.

It didn’t go well. The Knicks were predictably blown off the court and Porzingis struggled. The big man shot just 8 of 21 from the field including 0 of 5 from three-point range and finished with 18 points. He had a team worst +/- of -16.

New York fell to 1-2 in games without Anthony and 2-8 in games without Rose. Porzingis is averaging 13.3 points on a putrid slash line of .391/.000/.571 in the three games without Anthony. So much for Melo holding him back.

According to the Unicorn, the experience was still a good one. He told Al Iannazzone of Newsday that he was disappointed with his performance.

“I’m trying to learn how to be the guy, how to be the focal point,” Porzingis said after the game. “Make a play or create a shot for myself. I’m still working on that. I still have a lot to learn. That’s one thing as I keep growing as a player I’ll have to learn and be better at.”

As Iannazone points out, this is a tough game to judge Porzingis off of due to his weak supporting cast. Portland, typically a horrible defense, was able to key in on Porzingis and he struggled.

Per Iannazone, head coach Jeff Hornacek provided some encouragement for the unicorn.

Coach Jeff Hornacek said Porzingis “double-clutched” too much and should have gone right up with his shot, but he believes he will learn from this. Hornacek also said it showed how difficult it is to become a go-to guy the way Anthony and Rose have been.

Porzingis said he talks to team president Phil Jackson about what he needs to work on.

“He knows everything about basketball,” Porzingis said. “Whenever I have a question, whenever he has something to say to me, I listen to him, try to learn as much as I can.”

Unlike Anthony and Rose, Porzingis has the support of his coach and the big boss in the front office. His future in New York is certain. There’s going to come a point when running the offense through the Latvian star won’t be considered tanking.

Up Next: The Knicks continue their road trip in San Antonio against the Spurs on Saturday, March, 25, at 8:30 p.m. ET.

I'm ESNY's Executive Editor for I cover the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. Email: Chip Murphy covers the NBA for Elite Sports NY. You can find him on Twitter @ChipperMurphy.