ORLANDO – In what turned out to be his final press conference as president of the Knicks, Phil Jackson declared Kristaps Porzingis was not ready to assume the physical burden of the franchise player.
A few months later, Jackson nearly traded Porzingis.
But with a regime change comes a different philosophy about Porzingis, as coach Jeff Hornacek declared Saturday that his power forward is indeed equipped to carry an offense.
“That’s his next steps in his growths as a player, to be able to handle some of that,” Hornacek said Saturday. “He’s going to have to take that next step of taking over. I think he’s probably ready for that.”
The statement is important because that confidence should shape the roster. Hornacek speaks about the future as if Carmelo Anthony is already gone, and it feels like it’s only a matter of time before the Knicks find a resolution to their Melodrama.
According to a source, the Knicks are looking for younger players this summer to fill out the roster.
That should clear the way for the Knicks to become Porzingis’ team, to be hoisted on his 21-year-old shoulders. But transitioning to the Porzingis era would also mean passing on Derrick Rose, who, according to two sources, is a longshot to join the Knicks. Still, as point guards are getting gobbled up in free agency at an alarming rate, the Knicks are running out of other options.
Rose is shoot-first point guard who never meshed with Porzingis, who was third on the team in field goal attempts per game behind Anthony and Rose. Back in April after Porzingis skipped his exit meeting with Jackson, the NY Times cited an NBA source familiar with Porzingis’ frustration who essentially blamed Rose for the Latvian’s lack of development.
“The worst thing is, he knows he didn’t get better this year,” the person said. “How could he when they bring in Derrick Rose, a point guard who doesn’t pass the ball?”
On Saturday, Hornacek punted on the topic of Rose’s free agency and conceded the Knicks are not in the market for a top-flight free agent.
“I don’t know how much money we have, $ 16 million (in free agency), and these guys are making $ 30 million now, so if you look at it that way, it doesn’t look likely,” he said. “But there are good players out there that I’m sure they’re looking at to help us out.”
The Knicks probably still want a veteran point guard to mentor 18-year-old rookie Frank Ntilikina.
“I’ve yet to see Frank play,” Hornacek said. “You don’t want to necessarily throw him out there to the wolves but maybe he’s a guy who can handle it, I don’t know. We’ll have to see on that.
Ntilikina sat out the Summer League opener on Saturday, an 80-75 loss to the Mavericks that included 21 turnovers from the Knicks.
The eighth overall will also likely miss Sunday’s game because of the knee bruise sustained while playing overseas.
On Saturday, guard Chasson Randle scored a team-high 14 points but also committed seven turnovers. Second-round pick Damyean Dotson, in his first pro action, scored 10 points on 3 of 9 shooting with a team-high eight rebounds.
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