With 8:46 remaining in the second quarter of Tuesday night’s Knicks 103-89 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Kristaps Porzingis executed a dunk that would get the Madison Square Garden audience up from their seats.
Then, calamity came in that same sequence. Porzingis crashed to the ground after he dunked the ball, giving the Knicks a 31-30 lead, and the Garden turned into a morgue. With him being injury-prone, everyone knew that was not good. He immediately left the game for an MRI exam that would reveal he tore his ACL in his left knee.
The outcome of this game was irrelevant. Just like that, the Knicks season went down the drain. All people wanted to know was about Porzingis’ future.
They received their answer yesterday when the Knicks announced their star-crossed player would be sidelined for the next 10 months after he has the surgery. That means he may not even play next season if his rehab does not go well.
ACL is a tricky thing. Some athletes such as Al Harrington, Al Jefferson and Jamal Crawford have done well after the ACL, and some such as Ricky Rubio and Derrick Rose never played to their excellence again after tearing their ACL. Knicks fans were already concerned if his body can handle the grind of an 82-game season, so this does not help his cause.
I am no doctor, but this does not sound good. Porzingis has had so many injuries in his brief Knicks tenure. How much beating can his body take? How many injuries can he go through until his body can’t take it anymore? This eerily resembles what Mets third baseman David Wright has gone through in his career. He has had injuries in his neck and shoulder in recent years, and now he may likely retire since his body has given up on him after going through so many surgeries.
The Knicks and their fans like to perish that thought, but they can’t be in denial, either.
They can hope all they want about Porzingis being back and better than ever when he recovers from that surgery, but they have to be realistic to the point they need to see it to believe it. It’s hard to be optimistic when his season has been cut short in his three NBA seasons. He only played 72 games in his rookie season, and his play deteriorated as the season gone on as a result of a long season. He played 66 games last year, and he finished this season by playing 48 games.
Ever notice his play goes down as the season progresses? This is a same player who admits he is tired in December. This does not sound like a player that is tough enough to handle the grind of a season, does it?
There were concerns about him before what took place Tuesday night, and now it has been validated more than ever. It was not a question of if he gets hurt, but matter of when. It may appear like this is piling on Porzingis, but there should be compassion for him, too. It is frustrating for him that he can’t be healthy. He has done all he could to be in shape and play a full season, but it hasn’t happened. He has worked so hard to be the guy for the Knicks. He takes the responsibility of leading the Knicks to prominence seriously unlike Carmelo Anthony.
It’s no wonder why Porzingis’ peers offered sympathy towards him in light of what happened to him. They have respect for him as a basketball player. They know he can play in the NBA.
The Knicks have so much invested in their European star. Losing him to injuries year-after-year sets them back to where they want to go. It’s like starting all over again. It’s been an awful four-year run going on five for this troubled franchise, and it could get worse if he is a shell of himself after this ACL injury.
The Knicks brain trust won’t say it publicly, but they have to wonder if Porzingis is a guy that they have to build on. If fans notice it, it’s a good bet Knicks president of basketball operations Steve Mills and Knicks general manager Scott Perry notice it, too.
There are more questions than answers when it comes to Porzingis. Even he has to ask himself what’s next for him. He can forget about getting an extension this summer.
His injury changes things for the Knicks. They are likely not going to be good next season as he tries to get back to being in basketball shape. They don’t even know how they are going to move forward without him when it comes to building a team. It’s going to be hard to get free agents to play for them.
The only thing interesting about the Knicks next season is whether or not Porzingis will play again and be his All-Star self.