The Knicks are an unimpressive 22-28, four games out of the playoffs in the East as you read this, and according to fivethirtyeight.com have a 14 percent chance of making the playoffs this season. They are on pace to have a 37-45 record.
“Playoff experience for myself, individually, would be huge at this point in my career — the sooner, the better,” Porzingis said Monday, when asked his opinion about the Knicks’ approach at the Feb. 8 trade deadline. “And for most of the [Knicks] — most of the guys haven’t felt that playoff experience that everybody talks about — that the guys talk about that have been there. For myself, selfishly I would want to play in the playoffs but we’ll see what happens and how we can end the season.”
It would take a blockbuster deal to get the Knicks into the postseason. Currently, Indiana and Philadelphia are the seven and eight seeds in the East, and they are both are on pace to finish with 45-46 wins. To get to that level, the Knicks need to go at least 23-9 the rest of the way, and they would need to leapfrog Detroit — which just added Blake Griffin. All of which is to say, it’s tough to see the Knicks making the postseason.
The Knicks are more likely to be sellers rather than buyers at the trade deadline, guys such as Willy Hernangomez, Courtney Lee, and even Enes Kanter are drawing some interest from other teams. Whether those teams step up with good enough deals to pry loose someone is another question.
The more interesting thing to watch is how the current Knicks front office handles a frustrated Porzingis heading into the off-season, where they will offer him a max rookie contract extension. Steve Mills and Scott Perry can’t handle it worse than Phil Jackson did a season ago.
Three Things to Know: LeBron James talks to Lonzo Ball and that means… nothing
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) The Cavaliers beat the Lakers… but who cares because LeBron James talked to Lonzo Ball. Everyone loves a good mystery. Apparently to the point of obsession. Thursday night the NBA got its big unanswered question to obsess over:
What did LeBron James tell Lonzo Ball after the game?
Somehow overshadowing the fact LeBron had a triple-double in leading the Cavaliers past the Lakers in an actual basketball game that counts, the topic of discussion has been LeBron pulling Lonzo Ball aside after the game on the court to talk to him, with LeBron wisely pulling his jersey up over his lips to foil lip readers.
This video will be analyzed like it was the Zapruder film.
When asked what he said, LeBron answered: “None of y’all business.” Good. It’s not.
LeBron is one of the few people on the planet who has been in Ball’s shoes — overhyped coming into the league, drafted and instantly thrown into the role of franchise savior. LeBron has lived up to the hype over his career, he’s been through the wars, and he has advice to pass along. LeBron also has praised Ball’s level-headedness and said he liked what he saw in the rookie’s game. Ball had 13 points and 11 assists Thursday to push a Lakers’ team that did not roll over for the Cavaliers, another game where Ball is showing improvement this season. LeBron likely said some variation of what he’s said publicly — “You have the talent kid, just put in the work, honor the game, and ignore the circus around you.”
That will not stop the speculation, rumors, and conspiracy theories. If the political world has proved one thing in the past year or two, it’s that logic and facts will not stop people from believing what they want to believe.
The “LeBron will come to the Lakers” rumors run so rampant that the man himself skipped talking to the media after shootaround or before the game Thursday just to avoid the ridiculousness. The rumors persist despite reports that call it a “longshot.” They persist despite logic — LeBron (and his agent Rich Paul) have made it clear that winning and chasing more rings will be the priorities in deciding where LeBron plays next season, and even if the Lakers could land LeBron and Paul George they are the third best team in the West right now. “But he bought a new home in Brentwood! He’s coming!” Ugh. One thing is for sure: LeBron is not basing his decision based on anything he saw in a December regular season game.
Still, the postgame conversation was fuel for the conspiracy theorists. Whatever. At least some on Twitter just had fun with it.
2) Kristaps Porzingis leaves Knicks game after tweaking knee, to be examined Friday. The scariest injuries are non-contact ones, so when the Knicks’ star forward Kristaps Porzingis went to the locker room Thursday night with one Knicks’ nation held its breath.
The good news after the game is that Porzingis was standing on his leg without a brace or crutch. Both he and coach Jeff Hornacek said it was not serious. Porzingis will be examined Friday and said he felt a little pain when his knee buckled, so the team is being cautious. Hopefully, this really is nothing, but don’t be shocked if Porzingis is out Saturday when Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder come to Madison Square Garden.
By the way, the Knicks beat the Nets behind 27 points from Courtney Lee.
3) Kevin Durant goes off for 36 points, 11 rebounds in another Warriors’ win. “Stephen Curry? We don’t need no stinkin’ Stephen Curry.”
Okay, the Warriors aren’t exactly saying that, but they also are 4-0 without the point guard who was having a monster season but went down with a sprained ankle. The main reason is Kevin Durant. (Well, that and a more focused defense.) Durant went off against the Mavericks, taking control of the offense as he has done since Curry went down, scoring 37 points plus grabbing 11 boards and dishing out 7 assists. The Warriors won comfortably 112-97.
That makes eight straight wins for the Warriors, who statistically are on pace for 67 wins according to Ben Falk’s Cleaning The Glass (if you just extrapolate out the Warriors current record it’s “only” 65 wins).
Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis’ X-rays were negative, he can return
Porzingis left tonight’s Knicks-Heat game after Winslow stepped on his ankle. Hopefully, the injury isn’t as bad as it looked. The close-up is particularly jarring.
At 10-10, the Knicks were at least hanging around the playoff race. Though I expected them to fade regardless, a serious injury for Porzingis could set them way back. They’ve been outscored by 11.4 points per 100 possessions when he sits (+4.5 when he plays).
Sometimes, these wind up being far more minor than they appear. But this also has potential to be the type of injury that changes New York’s plan for the entire season.
Courtney Lee: Some Knicks players don’t know the plays
Three games into the NBA season, the Knicks have the worst offense in the NBA, scoring just 93.8 points per 100 possessions. They have been the worst shooting team in the NBA, with an eFG% of 46.5 percent so far (the league median is 51.2 percent), and they are shooting just 19.7 percent on corner threes and 26.1 percent from three overall. Plus, the Knicks have turned the ball over on 18.6 percent of their possessions.
And those numbers don’t do justice to how sloppy the offense has looked if you watch a Knicks’ game.
Jeff Hornacek’s seat is getting a little bit warmer. He’s considered a Phil Jackson hire who is getting his chance to do things his way now, and the results are not pretty early.
The Knicks don’t have a lot of talent on the roster, and they have one of the worst point guard rotations in the NBA (which is why their name comes up in the Eric Bledsoe conversation, he would help them immensely). But the lack of cohesion on the offensive end goes beyond that. The half-court is a mess, except on the few times one player makes a good cut and another guy finds him. They need to play more in transition, but that has accounted for just 8.3 percent of their chances so far as they play at the 20th fastest pace in the league.
Kristaps Porzingis, averaging 25.3 points and 7.3 rebounds a game, has been the lone bright spot this season. It’s going to be a long winter in New York if this keeps up.
Jeff Hornacek, Knicks coaches to handle defensive plans this season
On veteran teams, with high-IQ players, coaches often will lean on players to help with the game plan. Especially defensively. Veteran defenders know the tendencies of their opponents (having played them so many times) and can offer suggestions on what works and what doesn’t.
Jeff Hornacek came from one of those teams as a player, so he tried to do it with the Knicks last season as their coach. That would be the Knicks who ranked 25th in defensive efficiency last season. It didn’t work out so well.
“We’re not doing that this year,” Hornacek said Monday. “When we go to shoot around that (defensive) plan will be in place. We’ll know the adjustments, instead of trying to give the guys the idea, ‘Hey, you guys play, you guys know these guys. What’s the best way to do it?'” Hornacek added that he may have made a mistake in giving players that leeway last season. “I played on teams that had great veteran players. We had a basic thing, but most of the time it was, ‘Okay, I’m going to be doing this, you’re going to be doing this and we worked it out.’ That’s maybe what I thought we’d be able to do last year with the guys. But that’s, we found out that didn’t work the best for us. This year we worked all summer to try to figure these things out.”