New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) reacts after scoring during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Jeff Hornacek doesn’t want to use Kristaps Porzingis at center

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Watch Kristaps Porzingis play — the way he can score in the paint, knock down threes, and get blocked shots — and it’s easy to think he’s the Knicks’ future at center. He’d be a matchup nightmare — he already leads the team in blocks (KP had seven in one game against the Lakers a few weeks back), he can play inside but can also knock down threes. He’d need a rebounding, dirty-work four next to him, but Porzingis at the five running the floor with Derrick Rose/Brandon Jennings, Courtney Lee and company seems a threatening lineup that may be the ultimate direction for New York.

Except, coach Jeff Hornacek doesn’t want to go there.

The Knicks’ coach told Stefan Bondy at the New York Daily News said he wants Porzingis at the four and to use a traditional center next to him.

“That’s an option we’ve gone to sometimes. Sometimes it’s worked, sometimes it hasn’t been great,” the coach said. “So we want the big guys. Sometimes when we take those guys out our protection at the basket isn’t as good. That puts a bigger emphasis on our guys outside to have to stop the penetration. Because KP can block shots in there, but then his man may be doing stuff on the weak side. So I think we’re better in the long run when you have two big guys down there — KP and somebody else defensively.”

“We have three capable centers in Jo and Kyle and Willy played really well in Denver so if we play KP more at the 5 it kind of takes away those minutes,” Hornacek said.

Those three bigs are Joakim Noah, Kyle O’Quinn, and Willy Hernangomez, and Horacek has used all three fairly regularly. Porzingis is basically treated as a stretch four, albeit one who can block shots. He’s gotten run at the five with Jennings and had success, but it such a small sample size it’s hard to read too much into it.

Porzingis at center isn’t going to work against every team and every lineup — he’s going to struggle to defend guys like Andre Drummond, for example — but it can cause a lot more problems for the opposing team most nights than it creates. New York just seems loathe to embrace that, and when you have Noah aging before your eyes, of course, you want to get him as much run as possible. Why not use Porzingis at the five sort of like a death lineup for 10-14 minutes a night? Try it with different combinations.

You can watch Porzingis use his 7’3″ frame to try to block shots from the lilliputian Isaiah Thomas on Christmas Day. That will be entertaining. And with the Celtics, you can see what an offense looks like when the center can space the floor.

Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell slips, mildly sprains knee ligament. MRI Saturday.

Indiana Pacers forward Thaddeus Young, right, takes the ball away as Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell, center, falls to the floor with an injury during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell mildly sprained a ligament in his right knee in the opening minutes of Los Angeles’ game against the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.

Russell was re-evaluated at halftime and did not return to the game.

Russell was hurt while going around a screen set by teammate Julius Randle on Los Angeles’ second possession. The point guard’s left leg alarmingly stretched backward when he lost his footing, and he stayed down on the court for several moments.

He eventually walked on his own to the locker room, where the sprain was diagnosed.

Russell is averaging 14.8 points, 4.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds during the second NBA season for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft.

Dwyane Wade apologizes to Bulls fans after ugly Chicago loss

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Even for an up-and-down Bulls team that has seen some sloppy losses, Friday night’s was ugly. The Atlanta Hawks went on a 36-11 run between the end of the first quarter and the start of the second, they led by as many as 34, and cruised in for the 103-92 win. The game wasn’t that close, the Hawks thoroughly outplayed the Bulls, and after the game ended coach Fred Hoiberg said he and his staff need to reexamine everything.

Dwyane Wade went another direction, apologizing to fans.

Wade was 2-of-10 shooting on the night.

Despite the loss, the Bulls remain tied with the Bucks for the final playoff slot in the East, a race that will likely include Detroit and New York (and maybe Charlotte) and go down to the final days of the season. The Bulls (21-23) can’t have many more games like Friday.

Warriors get 6th straight win, 125-108 over Rockets

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry reacts after making a 3-point basket late in the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, in Houston. Golden State won 125-108. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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HOUSTON (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 32 points and the Golden State Warriors used a big third quarter to build a huge lead and coast to their sixth straight victory, 125-108 over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.

In a matchup of two of the best teams in the Western Conference and All-Star starting guards Stephen Curry and James Harden, the Rockets fell short. Houston, which entered the game leading the NBA with 667 3-pointers, was just 7 of 35 behind the arc. Harden went 0 for 5 and Eric Gordon, who entered the game leading the NBA with 160 3s, missed all seven attempts.

Clint Capela had 22 points and Harden added 17 points with 11 assists for the Rockets, who are third in the West behind Golden State and San Antonio.

The Warriors were up by five at halftime and used a 12-4 run to open the second half and stretch their lead to 74-61 with about nine minutes left in the quarter. Golden State got six points from Durant in that span, including a dunk and a nifty reverse layup.

Houston got four points from Capela after that before Golden State used a 10-2 run, with 3s from Draymond Green and Curry, to make it 84-67 midway through the period.

Golden State pushed the lead to 99-79 entering the fourth quarter.

Houston won the first game against Golden State this season in two overtimes to snap an eight-game, regular-season losing streak to the Warriors. But it was clear the Rockets wouldn’t make it two in a row after they scored just 22 points and went 0 for 10 on 3-pointers in the third quarter.

Houston scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 99-84. But Golden State used a 9-4 run after that to extend its lead to 20 points by the midpoint of the quarter, and many fans started heading for the exits.

Curry finished with 24 points and made five 3-pointers, including one with about 3 1/2 minutes remaining that left the Warriors up 117-93. Both teams cleared their benches after that.

The Warriors led 62-57 at halftime.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Golden State made 15 of 38 3-pointers. … Klay Thompson added 16 points. … Green had 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Rockets: Ryan Anderson had one rebound in nine minutes in his return after missing two games with the flu. … Capela played 21 minutes off the bench in his third game back after missing a month with a fracture on his left fibula. … Sam Dekker had 17 points for his 11th double-digit game this season. …

CHEERING ON THE HOME TEAM

Houston Texans star J.J. Watt cheered the Rockets on from a courtside seat. He received a huge ovation when he was shown on the Jumbotron during a timeout in the second quarter. Watt, who won NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, played just three games this season before having season-ending back surgery.

 

Penny Hardaway inducted into Magic Hall of Fame (VIDEO)

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 15:  Penny Hardaway attends the Sears Shooting Stars Competition 2014 as part of the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend at the Smoothie King Center on February 15, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Orlando Magic have inducted Penny Hardaway into the franchise’s Hall of Fame.

Hardaway, a game-changing point guard at 6-foot-7, becomes just the fifth player in franchise history to be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame. He was enshrined during a pregame ceremony Friday and will be honored during a special halftime presentation during Orlando’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Amway Center.

Acquired by the Magic during the 1993 NBA Draft, Hardaway spent six seasons in Orlando where he averaged 19 points, 6.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.95 steals per game. Hardaway and center Shaquille O’Neal guided the Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995 where they lost to the Houston Rockets.

Hardaway remains third on the team’s all-time steals list (718) and fourth in assists (2,343).