Why Kristaps Porzingis Should Be Irate
It is clear through promotional tools and by the words of New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations Steve Mills that Kristaps Porzingis is the face of the organization. Porzingis was drafted with the fourth pick just two years ago and has proven to be a potential generational talent after two very promising seasons with the Knicks.
Despite all of that, the team has mistreated and downright disrespected their prized unicorn.
First, it was the trade rumors that swirled around the NBA Draft in June. Then-president of the Knicks Phil Jackson went in front of MSG Network cameras and discussed the idea of trading Porzingis. Jackson was acting irrationally following the Latvian's decision to skip his exit meeting with the team.
In a shocking move by owner James Dolan, the franchise cut ties with Jackson. Damage had been done, however, as the franchise effectively alienated and drove down the trade value of Carmelo Anthony. Anthony, despite age and injuries, is still the team's best player and gives them the best chance to win in the short-term.
Jackson wanted to move on from Anthony to bottom out, which isn't a bad idea for a Knicks team that has missed the playoffs the last four seasons. But moving on from Porzingis was an idea that was as equally mind-boggling as it was perilous.
With Jackson gone, the drama surrounding New York and its 22-year-old phenom was supposed to be put to rest.
And then a bombshell hit the news-cycle this past week.
It was revealed that during the season, coach Jeff Hornacek actually told Porzingis' close friend Will Hernangomez to tell Porzingis to stop "playing like a p*ssy."
Nevermind that Porzingis grabbed seven rebounds and swatted two shots per game. A coach going to one player and asking him to relay a message like that is divisive to a team's locker room.
Hornacek, as the coach, has every right to go at his players if he feels they are not giving enough effort. Not addressing Porzingis directly is a spineless move.
Even worse, telling Porzingis' best friend on the team to relay the message can have several far reaching effects.
It can drive a wedge between Hornacek and Hernangomez, who likely would never want to be the middleman of such a problematic exchange. It can drive a wedge between Porzingis and Hernangomez as well. It wouldn't be far-fetched to imagine a scenario where Porzingis is doubtful of the truth of such a message when it doesn't come directly from the coach.
Finally, and most obviously, it creates a toxic relationship between the star player and the coach. Porzingis will eventually become the de facto leader of the Knicks. If he and his coach aren't on the same page, the team will most likely suffer.
Jackson himself was famous for having disagreements with his players. He and Kobe Bryant famously went to war routinely while the team was winning championships in the early 2000's.
Jackson was also a proven winner at that point. Hornacek has proven very little as a head coach, having never even brought a team to the playoffs.
If this behavior continues, there likely isn't any reason for the Knicks to stay loyal to Hornacek. As a Jackson hire, he may be on a short leash anyway.
Until he proves he can get the most out of his players and successfully guide a team to the playoffs, Hornacek should stay in line. Porzingis survived Jackson, one of the most respected basketball minds ever and a man who was still owed $36 million for the next three years.
He could and would outlast Hornacek.