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It's halfway through the Knicks season and their unicorn has talked about being very tired. Kristaps Porzingis has missed six games this season, after missing 16 last season, and 10 in his rookie season. That comes out to 32 games out of 205, which is around 15 percent of games missed.
The Knicks star was tremendous at the start of the season, where he looked like a legit MVP candidate. Then injuries and illnesses of different varieties went down, and things changed. Porzingis missed games, he played hurt, he took a lot of hits, and his numbers declined rapidly. There have been nights he hasn't showed up at all (the one-point effort against the Celtics), and there's been nights he has not shot well.
Porzingis is only 22 years old and has plenty of room to grow, but there have been the highs with KP and there have been lows. Jeff Hornacek and the Knicks are going to have to find a way to keep Porzingis fresh if they want to make a run for the playoffs, because he's only going to get more tired as he plays more games...
Tim Hardaway Jr.'s return will help immensely
First off, Hardaway is likely making his return this weekend. That is going to help the Knicks in a huge way. Porzingis has tried to carry the team on his back in these 20 games THJ has missed, and his return is going to be a load off his shoulders. It's such a big return if he can stay on the floor that it could spark a revival in Porzingis' game. The Knicks have been missing the nearly 18 PPG from Hardaway so badly and they have had Porzingis shoot the ball more -- including a lot of bad shots -- then they ever would have wanted. Expect things to change when their second-leading scorer is back.
Hornacek has to make adjustments in timing
Coach Hornacek has to figure out a way to change the rotations up a bit and when he takes Porzingis out of the game. There is no reason they need Porzingis to stay in the game for the first 10 minutes. Hornacek should play him six to seven minutes then rest him for the rest of the quarter and maybe even the first half of the second quarter. He has got to be focused on having Porzingis fresh for the second half of games. Hardaway's return will help in that aspect, as he won't need Porzingis' scoring as much through all four quarters. Hornacek has got to have Porzingis in more in the fourth quarter and less in the first and second.
Porzingis needs to bulk up
The Lizard has to find a way in the offseason and during the season to get stronger. He's taking a lot of hits and falling to the floor a lot. He's had trouble attacking the rack and dominating the post as he gets fatigued. If he was stronger, that may not be an issue. He looks a tad stronger this season than last, but still has a ton of room to grow. You have to imagine he's going to hit the weights hard this summer. The Knicks need him to be able to do more than just shoot and block shots, and it would be nice to see him attack and get by guys more than he's been doing.
Play Joakim Noah, Willy Hernangomez
Joakim Noah and Willy Hernangomez are essentially rotting away on the bench. Why not give them minutes to give Porzingis rest? You have two active players on the roster who have some skill and energy who are barely getting any time on the court. There's a trickle down effect to that. It's likely having an effect on Kyle O'Quinn, too, who looks gassed at times, and has trouble covering strong, big centers. Wasting two bodies on the bench and having everyone else tired late in games is a product of poor coaching. Hornacek needs to do a better job with rotations and giving guys minutes, because KP isn't the only one in the second half of this season that is going to be tired.