Welcome to Kristaps Porzingis‘ world, where every word that comes out of his mouth is scrutinized, analyzed, and often blown out of proportion. Take these comments from the other night after a loss to the Wizards:
“I’m tired, I’m tired, I’m so tired right now… We’re in a tough stretch. The mental part doesn’t help at all. When it’s mentally tough, you don’t have it in you.’’
This plays right into the Porzingis durability questions — he’s missed double-digit games in both of his NBA seasons, and more telling his game faded the second half of both seasons. Just 38 games into this season — and with the Knicks only one game out of the playoffs in the East — history seemed to be repeating itself.
Porzingis tried to pump the brakes on that saying his comments were about playing in a back-to-back, speaking to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.
“All I know is, of course, after playing a back-to-back everybody feels tired,” he said. “If you don’t feel tired, you didn’t play hard…
“Of course, it’s physically harder (as the team leader). That’s something I was preparing myself for,” he said Friday. “It’s not something where all of a sudden (it) hit me. I’ve prepared myself for it and I have to be ready for it if I want to be the guy. There can’t be any excuses made, whether it’s so many minutes I’m playing or whatever it is.”
In his last five games, Porzingis is still scoring 20 points a game but his efficiency has plummeted — 39.1 percent shooting overall and 22.2 percent from three. He’s still having a better season overall than his previous two, but the slippage of late feels familiar.
Tired legs may be part of the story, but it’s far from all of it.
The Knicks desperately miss Tim Hardaway Jr. being healthy and in the rotation. Without him Porzingis is the only player with real gravity among the starters, the defense focuses on him, and KP’s passing is just not good enough to find the open guy regularly. Not that the other Knicks are moving much off the ball, that has ground to a halt as well. It’s been Porzingis against the world, and that is not just physically draining, it’s mentally exhausting, and that also is part of where Porzingis is right now.
Michael Beasley, coming in off the bench in New York, has put up numbers of late in part because he’s the only other respectably shot creator on the roster.
As the Knicks get healthy, we’ll see if Porzingis’ game rebounds. There’s just more than half a season to go and if the Knicks are going to have to get some wins on the road, and even more out of Porzingis.