On a month-by-month basis, New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis has seen his scoring numbers continue to fall.
Getting off to a scorching-hot start, Porzingis averaged 29.3 points and 8.3 in 34.0 minutes per contest in the month of October, 24.2 points, 6.1 rebounds in 30.3 minutes in November, 22.0 points and 6.5 boards in 33.3 minutes in December and 19.4 points and 7.2 rebounds in 38.2 minutes this month.
He has also had noticeable shooting struggles over those months, going 47.8 from the field in October, 46.1 in November, 41.2 in December and 36.8 so far in January.
Therefore, some obvious concerns have arisen. Is he hurt? Have opposing teams figured him out? Has he lost confidence? What on Earth has caused such a stark decline from his hot start?
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek had an idea and shared it with Marc Berman of the New York Post in advance of Friday night’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“I think KP’s had to shoulder a lot,’’ Hornacek said. “Obviously he’s our main offensive weapon. When Tim was out there, that just gives us another scorer out there. We’ve stayed in a lot of these games because of our defense but Tim gives us another dimension, another guy that can penetrate to the basket, another guy that can shoot 3’s.”
Therefore, Hornacek believes that the return of Tim Hardaway Jr., who missed all of December and the first five games of January due to an injury, will turn around Porzingis’ recent struggles.
“We haven’t been able to shoot a lot of 3’s lately. So all of that stuff, when you start doing that, that opens the court up for guys like KP and maybe gives him some easier buckets that way. So it just lends that dynamic of more threats, the easier it’s gonna be for everybody,” the coach predicted.
Porzingis has dealt with double-teams from opposing clubs and having Hardaway back will give the Knicks another perimeter shooter for the big man to kick the ball out to in pressure situations.
“They tried that earlier in the season (with a guard) and KP kinda took care of that pretty quickly and got off to a great start,’’ Hornacek said on his coach’s show. “Just some little techniques he’s working on in practice. Some of that is sometimes they can load up and put the small guy and get into his legs. They’re coming to double team him occasionally when he puts the ball on the ground. And those are things we practice, trying to get him to get that feel of when he’s getting trapped to just kick it out. He had a nice one the other night (in Dallas), he kicked it out to Courtney Lee for 3. And when we start doing that, it’s gonna get easier on him.’’
Hardaway returned to the court on Friday and posted 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting in 25 minutes off the bench. Porzingis continued to struggle shooting the ball overall, knocking down just 6-of-19 shots. But, it’s worth noting that he went 3-for-5 from beyond the three-point line.
It will be fascinating to see if Hardaway’s return will get Porzingis back on the right track or if the 7’3” star will extend his slump.