Knicks Looking To Shut Down Kristaps Porzingis For Remainder Of The Season

The New York Knicks defeated the Brooklyn Nets Friday night 105-91 in an irrelevant matchup between two of the Eastern Conferences’ lesser teams.

The Knicks have come a ways from starting off the season strong behind a rejuvenated and team-first version of Carmelo Anthony along with a surprise young star from Latvia, Kristaps Porzingis.

The fourth pick in this past year’s NBA Draft has proven to be the hidden gem in the Knicks season thus far.

The Latvian forward was considered by many to be the early favorite for Rookie of the Year honors over the first overall pick, Karl Anthony-Towns, but hit the rookie wall midway thru the season that can be attributed to the dis-functionality of his team in general.

With the win the Knicks move to 31-46, but the bigger story Friday night was the status of Knicks’ up-and-coming rookie Kristaps Porzingis.

Porzingis sat out Friday’s contest due to an ailing shoulder. The team has since revealed that the 7 ft 3 rookie suffered the right shoulder strain earlier this week against New Orleans when he went up to block a shot by the Pelicans’ Alonzo Gee.

Porzingis was left out of Wednesday’s close loss to the Dallas Mavericks and now many are questioning whether the Knicks should risk bringing the future face of the franchise back to the line-up at all this season.

“I would be the last person to recommend that he comes back and puts himself in a situation where he could cause more harm to himself. That would be ridiculous of us as an organization and a medical staff. They won’t allow that to happen,” interim coach Kurt Rambis said Friday after the Knicks revealed an MRI exam on Porzingis showed the rookie suffered a right shoulder strain.

“He’s day-to-day. We’ll see how the swelling goes and how he feels and getting the strength and mobility back in it, but beyond that, I don’t know,” Rambis said about the rookie playing in the final five games. “He’s going to have to feel very comfortable, feel strong, have mobility and be comfortable that he can go out there and perform and not worry about his shoulder.”

Along with Porzingis, starting point guard Jose Calderon was also unavailable Friday night due to a deep thigh bruise which he suffered in the Dallas game Wednesday.

“Just a contusion,” Calderon said. “But it was a little bit more than normal, [and] he got me in a bad spot or something. … I don’t know. Maybe my muscle was relaxed at that time, so I felt it kind of went through.”

Due to Calderon’s injury, rookie Jerian Grant was able to get his first start of this season and performed well in the Knicks’ win Friday night with 14 points and four assists in 29 minutes of action.

Seeing that the Knicks traded up in the first round of this year’s past draft to select Grant, it may be in their best interest to allow him to play out the remainder of the season.

As far as Porzingis goes, with only five games left in the season, it would be wise to allow the rookie to shut it down and, if anything, assess his team from the sidelines these last few games and begin to focus with team trainers on what he needs to work towards for next season.

The talented rookie has averaged 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and two blocks per game in his rookie season, and so long as his work ethic stays intact, he will prove to be a dominant force in the league and the center piece to New York basketball for years to come.

The Knicks as a whole really have nothing to play for aside from assessing the pieces they feel they may want to keep this coming off-season, which many figure will be a big one for New York if they want to keep their promise to aging superstar Carmelo Anthony on building a squad that can compete for a ring.

The Knicks don’t own their first-round draft pick, which will be shipped to Toronto via the Melo deal, and will have to rely on free agents/trades to upgrade their roster for the next season. If the Knicks don’t deliver, it will be interesting to see whether Melo decides to waive his no-trade agreement to leave for a contender.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

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