The next time you see Kristaps Porzingis on the court, he may be shaking hands with mentor Carmelo Anthony at center court in Oklahoma City before tip-off.
Whether Porzingis’ sore right hip allows him to play the preseason finale against Washington on Friday is still a mystery, but the Knicks’ 22-year-old franchise player vowed he’ll be there for the season opener Oct. 19 against the Thunder.
Porzingis sat out Wednesday’s practice after missing Monday’s exhibition loss to Houston. He was shut down Sunday for the second half in Brooklyn with the new ailment, but team doctors haven’t classified it as serious.
“Forty percent yes, 60 percent no,’’ Porzingis said when asked if he would be back Friday. “[It] depends how I feel [Thursday] with running, shooting. We’ll see. I’m lifting my leg up. It’s getting better from [Tuesday].”
Later in the interview, he tried to be more optimistic.
“I hope to play the last game and be ready for the season,” Porzingis said. “I’m like a lizard. I recover quickly.”
Although more known for being a unicorn because of his perimeter dazzle at 7-foot-3, Porzingis has missed 26 games in his first two seasons due to various injuries. This latest malady, he believes, occurred from overcompensating on a sore ankle. Porzingis had hip issues during his pre-draft workouts in 2015.
Doctors told him he may have to “put more pressure on another part of the body.’’ Porzingis said he has learned to work a lot on correct “posture.’’
“I’m 7-3, maybe 7-5, I don’t know,’’ said Porzingis, who has brought his own personal physio therapist from Latvia to New York for the season. “I have to do all the preventative stuff.’’
The phenom was the subject of a mini-controversy when MSG Network analyst Alan Hahn was caught on a hot mic ripping him in rough language for being a minus-20 in the first half against the Nets. Hahn told partner Wally Szczerbiak: “Dude, like come on, man. You’re a star. This is what you’re doing? You’re just out there?”
Porzingis said Wednesday he didn’t consider the stat reflective of his poor play necessarily. He had three blocks in the half but shot just 2-of-6.
“I’m not too worried about that honestly,’’ Porzingis said of his minus-20. “We had a terrible first half. I’m not worried about my game. We have to play better as a team.’’
Porzingis is still unsure the exact language Hahn used. He only got debriefed about the dust-up from a Knicks public-relations staffer Wednesday.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal,’’ Porzingis said.
It is a big deal, however, that the Knicks have looked soft defensively during their 0-4 preseason, allowing 112.7 points per game.
“I’m not concerned, but we saw there’s a lot we need to work on,’’ Porzingis said. “We haven’t looked good at all. We’re watching a lot of film. There’s a lot of things. We’re trying to go out and do it the right way. It’s going to take a little bit of time.’’
Some scouts believe Porzingis has work to do on defense, fouling less and not biting on fakes during which he leaves his feet prematurely. In his third season, Porzingis pointed out an obscure analytic in which he rated highly on defending an opponent at the rim.
“I have to be big in the paint all the time,’’ Porzingis said. “Not always going to block a shot. I’m going to bother the shots. Last season I was one of the best at lowering the percentage of another team at the rim.’’
Playing power forward, Porzingis said his blocks per game may not be among the league leaders this season. With four centers on the roster, Hornacek says Porzingis will see little time at the 5.
“I’m not blocking as many shots because I have to guard [guys like] Ryan Anderson,’’ Porzingis said of the prototype “Stretch 4.’’
After the Nets’ blowout, Porzingis said his mates were focusing too much on rotations and help defense and less on stifling their own guy.
“Defense — a lot it is just effort,’’ Porzingis said. “There’s no talent, just physical talent. It’s all about effort, especially 1-on-1 defense.’’