It's about next season for the Knicks, yet again.
Some were optimistic after the Knicks start of the year when they took full advantage of an early-season schedule that saw them play a heavy amount of home games.
The Knicks did lose a lot this past week when star forward Kristaps Porzingis went down with a torn ACL in his left knee. After a beautiful dunk against Giannis Anteokounmpo and Milwaukee at Madison Square Garden, he landed awkwardly and we all saw his knee bend in a strange direction before he went down in pain. As a Knicks fan, you feared the worst and hoped for the best. And being a Knicks fan, you expected the worst and shortly before 11 p.m. on Tuesday evening, the worst fears were realized as an MRI revealed a torn ACL. He is expected to be sidelined for at least the next 10 months.
It is more than ironic that the Porzingis injury occurred after a dunk against Anteokounmpo. They are both freakishly talented athletes who are often compared because of their ability to change the game with their style and fashion. One, in Anteokounmpo, has been able to stay relatively healthy and the other in Porzingis, has not.
As freaky of an athletic specimen the 22-year-old is, he is also remarkably fragile. When the Knicks season comes to an end this year, Porzingis will have missed 60 games in his 1st 3 seasons. The only thing that Porzingis has been consistent at is being hurt. I don’t think it is a matter of physical fitness, adding weight or monitoring his fatigue levels. I do think it is the style and fashion in which he plays the game and the toll it takes on his body. At 7-foot-3 inches tall, I don’t think he can play the same style of basketball and expect his body to hold up well. Over the course of the next 10 months, as he rehabs from major knee surgery, that might be the biggest adjustment that he has to make to his game. He needs to stay on the court.
Everyone seemed to think that the fortune of the Knicks was going to change once they traded Carmelo Anthony. You should never expect the Knicks and success to be in the same sentence. Well, even after a good start, aided by a heavy home schedule, the Knicks have moved quickly back to being irrelevant. Now, we know the Knicks are exactly what we expected them to be: A struggling franchise that is still in search of a winning identity.
You have every reason to be concerned about Porzingis moving forward. Even though it seemed crazy at the time, now you know why former Knicks president Phil Jackson wanted to move Porzingis before the NBA draft last summer. He had serious reservations about him staying healthy.
The Knicks still look to build their franchise around Porzingis, but the health questions still remain and they will remain there because he is rarely healthy. Maybe he can't be the lead man and will be better suited as the second fiddle. There is no questions about his game, but the question does remain as to whether or not his body can hold up and allow him to continue to show his vast basketball ability. Can he lead the Knicks to a championship? With the right talent around him he has the talent to do so, but that is not the most pertinent questions. It is not his ability to play, but CAN he play? Plus, what will Porzingis be following his knee surgery? Will he be the same ‘unicorn’ that captured the imagination of this city? Plenty of questions that will go unanswered for the foreseeable future.
Is he the face of the Knicks? For sure. But he is also the face of disappointment and injury this season as the Knicks look at another lost year still seeking answers.
Did some of those answers come on Thursday afternoon at the NBA trade deadline? I would not say that as the Knicks paired off once-promising center Willy Hernangomez to Charlotte on Wednesday and added lead guard Emmanuel Mudiay from Denver in a three-team deal that cost them Doug McDermott and a second-round draft choice.
Acquiring Mudiay is worth the gamble for the Knicks because he has one year left on his rookie deal. He is just 21years old and was once highly-touted as the seventh-overall pick in the 2015 draft. Maybe a change of scenery will help unlock his vast potential. Even if it does not work, McDermott was not part of the Knicks future and the gamble did not cost you all that much.
Can Mudiay be part of the solution? Maybe. He is a young athletic asset that needed a change of scenery. The Knicks will now have the rest of the season to find out what they have in both Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina.
After all, the idea of relevant basketball the rest of this season came crashing down to the hard court at MSG on Tuesday night. As Porzingis grabbed his left knee, the Knicks braintrust gasped and the same concerns about Porzingis coming into his third season will be there going into his fourth NBA season. Can he be the lead man and can he stay healthy? Questions, questions and more questions.