Kurt Helin

Kristaps Porzingis

Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis says he hasn’t hit “rookie wall”


For all the hype, Kristaps Porzingis is still a rookie, he’s going to be up and down. Such as 28 points against Dallas, then four points against the Jazz last Wednesday, followed by 13 points against the Kings, followed by going scoreless against the Trail Blazers.

It’s normal — unless you are the anointed savior of the New York Knicks. Which has led to talk of Porzingis hitting the rookie wall.

Except Porzingis doesn’t know what you’re talking about, he told the New York Post.

“I don’t think so,” Porzingis said Monday after Knicks practice in Tarrytown. “I don’t really know what a rookie wall is…

“A couple of bad games, it happens to all of us. Not only rookies. I’m just looking forward to the next game,” Porzingis said. “So ups and downs, obviously this is my rookie season.”

That’s rational. It will confuse some Knicks fans.

In his last five games, Porzingis’ usage rate and eFG% are right at his season averages. His defense hasn’t been as sharp, but then the Knicks team defense is tied to those issues. This is still a team with a lot of holes, and it’s going to be a challenge for Porzingis this season as defenses focus more attention on him. Plus he may be feeling the grind.

He’s still right at the top of the Rookie of the Year early rankings (I’d have him second behind Karl-Anthony Towns) and he looks like a guy who can be a cornerstone piece for the Knicks going forward. There will be some interesting tests for him this week when he goes up against Towns and Minnesota, then later Jahlil Okafor and the Sixers. But it’s not about this season with him anyway.

Rajon Rondo releases new statement apologizing to referee Bill Kennedy


Rajon Rondo will not play tonight when the Kings face the Rockets, his one-game suspension for having used a homophobic slur to referee Bill Kennedy during a game in Mexico City where Rondo was ejected. Kennedy has since come out as gay.

Monday, Rondo took to Twitter to “apologize” but it did not come off that way. Tuesday he got it right in a second statement.

“Yesterday, I said that my words toward Bill Kennedy were unacceptable and did not reflect my feelings toward the LGBT community. Some have interpreted my comments as a non-apology. I want to be clear, from the bottom of my heart that I am truly sorry for what I said to Bill. There is no place on or off the court for language that disrespects anyone’s sexual orientation. That is not who I am or what I believe and I will strive every day to be a better person.”

This is not going to make everything go away for Rondo, who has worked hard to rehab his reputation )and he’s played fairly well on the court this season). This is a significant setback for Rondo on that front.

Kings fans living in Sacramento who are Comcast Sportsnet subscribers, you can watch a live stream of the Rondo-less Kings taking on the Rockets Tuesday, just follow this link.

This is also a big black eye for the NBA, the one-game suspension coming off as soft. Adam Silver has a lot of work to do, also.

Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Blake Griffin can pass the ball, too

Blake Griffin, Jason Smith
Associated Press

Monday night saw a busy slate around the NBA, and you probably didn’t have time to take it all in because you were decorating your Christmas tree. Or watching the Dolphins. Or re-reading Brave New World. Or discussing how Rajon Rondo got off light. Whatever the reason, we’ve got you covered, so here are five things to know from an NBA Monday, starting with a note from Dan Feldman, who was at the Clippers’ win over the Pistons in Detroit.

1) Blake Griffin’s passing — not just the 34 points — gets Clippers win. Stan Van Gundy called Blake Griffin “easily” the best-passing true big* in the NBA before last night’s Clippers-Pistons game.

Detroit learned the hard way Van Gundy was right.

Griffin had 34 points and seven assists, including on Clippers’ two biggest baskets, in their 105-103 overtime win.

Down three late in regulation, Griffin drove and kicked to J.J. Redick for the game-tying 3-pointer:

Then — when Andre Drummond made what he called an “instinct” play to double Griffin in the high post, even though Van Gundy emphasized Griffin’s willingness to pass out of double-teams — Griffin found an open Jamal Crawford for the game-winner:

“People look at the power and the speed and the dunks, and they miss the best part of his game,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Griffin. “And that’s his passing.”

*The “true big” designation, to Van Gundy, eliminates Warriors power forward Draymond Green from the discussion. Green spends more time on the perimeter and less time with his back to the basket.
—Dan Feldman

2) Just when you think maybe Houston is turning it around… Houston had won 7-of-10 coming into Monday night, but those came against a soft part of the schedule, so one had to wonder if the turnaround was for real. This loss to Denver on the road 114-108 was the kind of sloppy, effortless loss that makes you think the problems are all still there. Houston made runs (they led by 10 at one point) thanks to nailing 18 threes, but their disinterested defense all night led to bigger Denver runs. Ty Lawson pretty much should just have a red cape in his hands to waive like a Matador as ball handlers blow by him. Another sign of Houston’s effort issue is Denver won the rebounding battle 52-26. Dwight Howard wants the ball in the post but can’t do much with it anymore. I could go on but you get the point, Houston still has a lot of questions to answer.

3) Will Barton threw down a big dunk, then later threw a shoe. Denver’s Will Barton has had a big season — he has a PER of 19 while nobody was looking — and he had a big Monday against the Rockets. First, there was this dunk.

Then Barton got a technical foul for throwing Trevor Ariza‘s shoe (I didn’t know this was a technical foul now, Dwyane Wade and Jarrett Jack have done it before without punishment).

4) The Spurs are quietly putting up a Warriors-like point differential. The Spurs crushed the Rudy Gobert-less Jazz 118-81 Monday night, lifting their season point differential to +13.2 per game (how much they outscore opponents by). The Warriors are just 13.1. Tom Haberstroh of ESPN had a great stat about it.

If you use net rating — how much a team outscores opponents by on a points per 100 possessions basis — the Warriors are at 14.8 on the season and the Spurs at 13.9 (stats via NBA.com). Either way, while everyone is rightfully marveling at the Warriors start, the Spurs are quietly just about as good. These are clear and away the two best teams in the NBA right now.

5) Goran Dragic gets elbowed in the face, loses a tooth, gets called for the foul. How exactly is this on Dragic? Al Horford is near the top of the key with the ball, swings his elbows through to create a space and start so he can start his move, and catches Dragic in the face as the guard is just in good defensive position. Dragic dropped to the ground quickly, and later they picked up part of his tooth off the court.

The foul call was on Dragic.

Will Barton throws Trevor Ariza’s shoe, gets technical (VIDEO)


Will Barton had a big night for Denver Monday. We already showed you how he threw down one of the more impressive dunks of the season, going right over Donatas Motiejunas.

Then there was the play above, where midway through the fourth quarter Trevor Ariza‘s shoe came off and as he reached for it Barton threw the shoe across the court.

Barton got called for a technical foul on the play. That was interesting, I guess it was unsportsmanlike, but Dwyane Wade did it to Mike Bibby once, and Jarrett Jack threw Dorell Wright’s shoe and neither of them got a technical. Was there an edict from the league that shoe throwing would now earn a tech?

Also, this fired up the Rockets who wanted to start a fight and then went on a 15-2 run to make it a tight game down the stretch. The Rockets played with passion for some of the first times all night — opponents should take note and not throw their shoes again, let them keep sleepwalking through games.

Denver hung on for the 114-108 win.

Goran Dragic gets elbowed in face, loses tooth, gets called for foul


General rule of thumb: If a guy swings his elbows through, catches you in the face and knocks out a tooth, the foul should not be on you.

Unless you’re Goran Dragic. In the third quarter of the Heat’s eventual win over the Hawks he was up on Al Horford near the top of the key, Horford swung his elbows through to create a little space and start his move going left, but he caught Dragic in the face. Dragic dropped to the ground quickly, and later they picked up part of his tooth off the court.

And the foul was on Dragic.

At least with that new $85 million contract Dragic should be able to afford a quality dentist.