In the New York spotlight, that invites urgent reaction.
With Kristaps Porzingis developing Achilles soreness last week, one NBA scout with European connections believes Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek is overextending the 21-year-old Latvian, saying, “It’s worrisome.’’
“He’s just turned 21,’’ said the NBA scout, who has worked for multiple teams. “They’re draining Kristaps, putting more minutes on him than anyone. Physically he grew in the offseason. It’s a tremendous amount of strain on new material — ligaments, tendons, knee joints for a big guy. It’s unbelievable stress on his body.’’
“At this stage, they’re asking for it,’’ the scout said. “They’re shooting themselves in the foot. The problem is Jeff has to win and has to go with everything he’s got to win.’’
Does this scout have specific insight into Porzingis’ health? Or is the scout just making assumptions from afar? The possibility of the former makes this intriguing, though there’s no evidence provided of that – just his position inside the league.
Porzingis is averaging 34.8 minutes per game, up from 28.4 last season, when he hit a wall late in the year. Maybe this is too much too soon. Karl-Anthony Towns is the only other player so young playing so many minutes per game this season, and Towns, also a second-year player, entered the NBA more physically developed.
There’s no catch-all formula that applies to every player.
Porzingis is particularly tricky, because he’s already the Knicks’ best player on a team – with Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Courtney Lee – built to win on Carmelo Anthony‘s timeline. This isn’t a Hornacek thing. Teams win by using their best players more.
Hornacek is showing concern for Porzingis’ health. At least that’s the favorable reading of Hornacek refusing to play Porzingis at center – Porzingis’ best position, but also the one that takes the greatest physical toll.
The Knicks should be mindful of long-term injury to their franchise player. But they should also be mindful of winning, and a heavy load for Porzingis is their best chance of accomplishing that. I don’t envy them having to find the right balance.