We may as well call it Black Monday because of the dark cloud forever hanging over. I’m just another Knicks fan trying to explain what the loss of Kristaps Porzingis did to my emotions.
On Monday Night, the Great Sept of Baelor exploded. Alderaan was incinerated by the Death Star. Eobard Thawne killed Nora Allen. Dumbledore died by the hand of Severus Snape. I can keep going with the science fiction and fantasy references, but at this point, you get the picture.
During the New York Knicks‘ matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks, we all screamed in horror as we watched our beloved Kristaps Porzingis collapse in pain after a routine slam dunk.
After being helped off the court, an MRI would later confirm that Porzingis suffered a torn ACL. Anyone familiar with this type of affliction knows that the injury will cost Porzingis the rest of this season and possibly a good chunk of next one as well.
The events of Feb. 6 stirred a lot of emotions as the Knicks’ season essentially plummeted down the drain and I felt it was my duty to document them.
Sometimes, it really does feel like the Knicks are a cursed franchise. Plagued by incompetence and flat out bad luck, this organization has stumbled into a 45-year championship drought. So when Porzingis collapsed clutching his left knee, I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only who sat there asking myself, “is this really happening again?”
I used to wholeheartedly believe that the worst thing that could happen to this franchise is if the front office found a way to trade another future first-round pick for Tracy McGrady. Turns out watching our seven-foot phenom go down in flames may have grabbed the top spot.
Honestly, it puzzles me that the NBA still stands by the 82-game schedule. The regular season is too rigorous and demanding. A playoff team winds up playing somewhere between 90-to-100 games in a given year. Factor in back-to-backs and frankly, players do not get nearly enough time to rest as they should.
Compared to previous eras, NBA basketball has become much more fast paced and features a higher quality of pure athleticism than earlier generations. This only ups the propensity of injuries, especially for a physical freak like Porzingis.
We’ve had plenty of experience watching great big men rise and fall like shooting stars while injuries derailed their career (e.g. Shawn Bradley, Yao Ming, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ralph Sampson, Greg Oden, and Andrew Bynum). Seven-footers do not age well and seem to be predisposed to more wear and tear because of their unusual builds. But at the same time, what are we accomplishing through 82 games that we couldn’t in 70?
On an organizational level, the Knicks should have been keeping a closer eye on Porzingis’ minutes to begin with. In handling Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers have instituted aggressive rest restrictions in order to avoid injury and keep him fresh for a potential playoff run. The 22-year-old Latvian had played 35 or more minutes in 22 of the 48 games he played this season. The Ringer’s Jason Concepcion has previously gone on to theorize that Porzingis should never average more than 28 minutes per game. Why push our young star to the brink in a year where our best case scenario is the eighth seed in the East?
The San Antonio Spurs have always been on the front lines of the player rest debate and Gregg Popovich has never hesitated to give his stars a much needed day off much to the chagrin of the league. In recent memory, we’ve seen other teams jump on that bandwagon like the Cleveland Cavaliers (LeBron James has played in 20 or more playoff games seven times in his career). Porzingis has been battling a slew of injuries this year including revealing that he is anemic and chronically tired. The Knicks should have been more aggressive in instituting restrictions which maybe could have preserved Porzingis’ health.
You also have to figure that this eliminates any chance the Knicks have of reaching the postseason next year. The team is probably going to unapologetically tank the rest of the way (which isn’t a bad thing, more on that further down), but unless whoever they draft makes an immediate and substantial impact, half a season of Porzingis will probably not be enough to make a push for the postseason in 2019.
Anytime a star sustains a severe injury, you have to wonder if they will ever be the same. Porzingis has a tough road in front of him to fully rehabilitate his knee and get back to performing at a higher level.
It makes you wonder if he will have to forcibly alter the way he plays in order to preserve his health and avoid unnecessary wear and tear. Bill Simmons appeared on The Ringer NBA Show earlier this week and drew a comparison to Rik Smits, someone in the seven-foot-plus range who fell victim to multiple lower-body injuries and had to refine his game to protect himself.
Maybe Porzingis’ days as an elite rim defender have come and gone. Maybe we’ve seen the last of his ferocious putback slams. The whole situation is just mired in uncertainty at this point and we can only take a wait and see approach on whether Porzingis will be able to regain his form.
With the upcoming stacked draft class, I have been a big proponent of the Knicks fully embracing tanking. With Porzingis out of the fold, now they can and should do so unapologetically.
The prospect of landing Luka Doncic is almost a worthy silver lining to all of this. Even Marvin Bagley, Trae Young, Jaren Jackson, and Michael Porter Jr. all seem like worthy alternatives. It seemed like the Knicks were doing everything they possibly could to land themselves in draft limbo, but landing another young star could be exactly what this franchise needs long term.
A little over a year ago, Zach LaVine sustained a torn ACL as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. On Draft Day, LaVine was shipped to Chicago in the deal that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota.
Since returning to action on Jan. 13, LaVine looks like he has not lost a step, most notably with a 35-point performance in the Bulls’ win against the Timberwolves Friday night.
Zach LaVine dunk on JaKarr Sampson pic.twitter.com/VbqZu9K1oL
— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) February 6, 2018
As you can see from LaVine’s slam during Monday’s contest with the Sacramento Kings, there is a path to a full recovery for Porzingis.
Porzingis is a one-of-a-kind player and his absence will weigh heavy on this team, but all we can do is put our hope in the fact that he will return next season fully healthy and quickly get back to playing at the high level that we’ve grown accustomed to.