Jeff Hornacek was adamant that Kristaps Porzingis will be back with the Knicks next season, even though the coach still hasn’t contacted his future star and wishes he hadn’t bailed on their exit meeting.
Speaking for the first time since Porzingis’ discontent became very public with skipped meeting, a cryptic tweet and a flexible outlook from Phil Jackson, Hornacek was asked about his certainty that the Latvian will remain with the franchise.
“There’s no doubt in my mind,” Hornacek said.
Still, that confidence isn’t based on anything Porzingis told him directly. Hornacek said his only contact with Porzingis was a text message that probably went ignored. Hornacek declined to answer whether Porzingis responded to his text.
Either way, a communication gap remains.
“Guys make decisions and live with those decisions. It just would’ve been a good opportunity to talk about what the concerns are moving forward,” Hornacek said. “You can’t do anything about the past. That’s the big thing. Whatever happened and went on, you can’t dwell on it. You got to learn from it and make the proper adjustments to move forward. Again it’s a long summer. When you lose it’s always tough. Let it clear. We’ll get back at it here in a little while.”
Porzingis bolted to Europe following the season and announced his plans to play for the Latvian national team this summer, without seeking approval from the Knicks. He recently tweeted from his verified account, “L.A. Clippers (with three smiley faces),” opening up speculation he desires that West Coast location more than the Knicks.
Porzingis said he was hacked, but his disappointment with the Knicks is well-documented. Among the contentions has been that Porzingis wasn’t put in a position to improve last season while playing alongside two players — Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose — who dominated the ball.
Hornacek pushed back on the idea that Porzingis didn’t progress in Year 2.
“I think he did. I think what everybody has to realize is that when you go from your first year to your second year, you’re not a surprise anymore,” Hornacek said. “So if you look at his stats and what he did, they’re about the same per minute. Now is that progress? Well, I think it is because there was a lot more focus on him this year. Even we had other guys, he wasn’t a surprise to anybody. So guys when he got the ball, they played him a little bit differently, played him a little bit harder. So yeah, I do think he progressed.”
Hornacek also defended his use of Porzingis, using a similar logic to Jackson when he declared last month that the Latvian isn’t ready to be the No. 1 option.
“There are steps. You don’t just come into the league your first year and now you’re the focus especially when you have 15-year veterans on the team who have done it. Could there have been more times? Maybe. He had a few opportunities,” the coach said. “But when you get to the end of the game, you’re looking at Carmelo to get you a bucket. That’s what it is. If we move forward and those guys aren’t there, he’s going to be a big part of it.”