New York Knicks: How much ‘closer’ is Kristaps Porzingis to return?

New York Knicks Kristaps Porzingis (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
New York Knicks Kristaps Porzingis (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

As Kristaps Porzingis continues to rehab with the New York Knicks, he remains patient in his efforts to return to the court.

Nine months since suffering a torn ACL, Kristaps Porzingis remains out for the New York Knicks. Updates on his status have come infrequently, with his last public comments at September’s Knicks Media Day, where he teased not returning at all in 2018-19.

However, in a recent interview, Porzingis spoke with GQ on his road to recovery. There were no groundbreaking reveals on when he could return, but the overall vibe seemed positive, with a minor update on what he’s doing:

"“I’m already doing some contact drills, and things where I’m competing against somebody. It’s good that it’s coming to an end, but in many ways, it’s been a blessing in disguise. I’ve learned so much about my body and myself. My vision is much clearer on many, many things.”"

When asked about the mental state of his rehab, Porzingis said, “The hard part is not being able to compete. Now that it’s getting closer, I can taste it. I’m trying to stay patient. The day will come.”

The 7-foot-3 star never said much “closer” he is to a return, but, arguably, with each day, he takes another step towards an official comeback. Though he alluded to still having “bad days” in the rehab, followed by “better days.”

Those “better days” will arrive when Porzingis returns. The Knicks are 4-10 without him in 2018-19, including back to back blowout losses to the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic.

In Porzingis’ place, Noah Vonleh has started in the frontcourt for nine of New York’s 14 games, averaging 7.4 points and 8.3 rebounds. Lance Thomas, opened the season in this role for five games, had 3.9 points and 2.2 rebounds.

There’s no one to replace Porzingis on the roster and few around the NBA that can mirror him. Someone at his height, and with that scoring ability, doesn’t arrive often.

Thus the Dirk Nowitzki comparisons as an international big man that finds baskets. For career pace, he averaged 21.8 points in Year Three while Porzingis had 22.6 before the injury.

Of course, the Knicks could use Porzingis’ boost for their 12th-place team in the Eastern Conference and 22nd standing in points per game at 106.4.

Along with a 43.1 shooting percentage, which stands 27th in the NBA, the team lacks dynamic scorers in his absence.

Tim Hardaway Jr., meanwhile, has stepped up to average 23.2 points or 21.8 percent of New York’s scoring per game. Otherwise, the next closest is Enes Kanter‘s 15.4 points and 14.4 percent.

Hardaway is contracted through 2019-20 and potentially 2020-21, but not Kanter. There are other pieces to work around Porzingis when he returns, though, including Mitchell Robinson, Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Allonzo Trier, the 2019 first-round pick and whoever arrives in free agency.

dark. Next. 20 greatest performances at Madison Square Garden

A foundation is in place for whenever Porzingis returns; young players on cheap salaries, with multi-year windows, before they sign second contracts. Maybe he works with them on the New York Knicks before 2018-19 ends, but, for now, it seems unlikely.