ORLANDO, Fla. — In his continuing campaign to get Kristaps Porzingis back in his good graces, Jeff Hornacek clarified the Knicks never shopped the 7-foot-3 Latvian at the draft, just that they didn’t hang up the phone when teams called about him.
The Knicks coach added Porzingis could have learned “lessons’’ from his skipped exit meeting, but added it wasn’t “a big deal.’’
Whether Hornacek was raging mad at Porzingis for blowing off former president Phil Jackson and the coaches after the season or not, the Knicks coach apparently knows it’s best not to continue a cold war with Latvia. Jackson found that out Tuesday, when he and his feuds with Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony were axed.
“I think it was out there that Phil was listening, but he wasn’t out shopping KP,” Hornacek said. “We love KP and what he does, so I don’t see him going anywhere.”
Indeed, Jackson asked for the moon and more. The former Knicks president, according to sources, wanted at least a top-four pick and a strong asset in any exchange. The Suns turned down the Knicks’ attempt at getting Devin Booker. Multiple reports stated the Knicks asked Boston for two rotation players and two lottery picks.
Still, sources said Jackson and the coaching staff were beside themselves at Porzingis, viewing it as an act of insubordination since he didn’t notify them before or after the missed meeting. At the league’s scouting combine, a month after the incident, Hornacek admitted Porzingis hadn’t returned his texts.
Hornacek is over it. Jackson probably never will get over it, as he’s back at his Montana ranch contemplating all that went wrong.
“That’s what he felt at the moment and then he goes: ‘I’m good, let’s go,’’’ Hornacek said. “So guys make decisions to do whatever. I’m sure when he comes back, we’ll talk. If you’re going to be more the leader on the team, those things are lessons. Not that big a deal.
“We’ve been in contact with him. So he’s busy out there working on his game and we know he is so I don’t think it’s too big a deal what’s going on. He’ll come back ready to play.’’
On Saturday, Hornacek said Porzingis is “probably ready’’ to be the No. 1 option in the team’s offense, which is the “next step’’ in his growth.
Hornacek explained the third season in the league usually represents the biggest jump for a player.
“The first year you’re kind of getting your feet wet,” Hornacek said. “Second year, now you’re feel more comfortable, so you take those steps forward. The third year you’re really confident. You’ve been in the league for a couple of years. You know guys’ tendencies more. You know how guys guard you more. The game starts to slow down for you. When the game starts to slow down for you, that’s when you take those strides.’’
That would seem to portend the end of Anthony’s reign as the focal point of the offense, as the Knicks still have him on the trading block despite Jackson’s ouster. The Knicks’ free agency has gone even more sluggish than expected.
“We knew it probably wouldn’t happen right away with guys,’’ Hornacek said. “We didn’t have enough money [for] the top players to get into our fold. I think at this point we’re waiting to see if somebody’s falling through and we can get him. So it’s still open.’’
The Post reported the regime believes Anthony was a bad influence on Porzingis, as Anthony admonished him for talking up the triangle in March.
As The Post first reported, the Knicks told the Rockets they are on hold with an Anthony deal until a new president is found. Former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin reportedly had a phone interview with the Knicks, but a face-to-face meeting won’t occur for a couple of weeks. So GM Steve Mills remains in charge, possibly for good, but has refused multiple times to talk to the media.
Sources told The Post Anthony’s situation is holding up their free-agent plans in some respects. They are still vying for George Hill and keep Derrick Rose, whose market is down, on their radar.
Boston and Cleveland could jump into the Anthony fray after missing on Paul George. The Celtics, who have tons of assets, could be desperate if they don’t land Gordon Hayward. The Post reported in April the Celtics coaching staff was in on trading for Anthony at last season’s trade deadline, but GM Danny Ainge didn’t want to blow his cap space.