If you thought the decades-running comedy series that doubles as an NBA team known as the New York Knicks would all of a sudden become functional and not embarrassingly hilarious following the departure of former team president Phil Jackson, you haven’t been paying enough attention to their crushing, organization-wide incompetence for long enough.
The team apparently still has some considerable relationship mending to do with young franchise cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis. In June, it was reported that the sweet-shooting Latvian big man had skipped his exit interview with the team following Jackson’s mistreatment of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony. But according to reporter Peter Vecsey, there was more to it than that, and the bitterness between franchise and star player involved head coach Jeff Hornacek, a not great look for Porzingis, and an insult relayed to the big man from his coach.
[Horneck] would reproach Porzingis in front of the team, an approach that offended his sensibilities. Some players can be tongue-lashed publicly with no ill effects. A sensitive soul, Porzingis evidently wished his scolding were private.
My initial snitch alleged Porzingis’ swagger swelled in direct proportion to his mounting stature with the Knicks and within the NBA. He resented being singled out for criticism and acted out accordingly. He developed an annoying habit, for example, of parking in spots at the team’s practice facility designated for management. By then, utter alienation already had occurred.
Willy Hernangomez is Porzingis’ best friend on the Knicks. Mindlessly, Hornacek got Hernangomez alone one dreadful day and conveyed to him what he should’ve conveyed to Porzingis face-to-face: “Tell your guy to stop playing like a p*ssy!”
This is a bad look for everyone involved—it’s kind of ridiculous for Hornacek to criticize someone for being soft by telling their best friend to pass that message on to him.
Save for his skipping an exit meeting, which was then viewed as at least an excusable response to Jackson’s inanity, this is the first time Porzingis has looked bad in this saga. Parking in management’s spot is a tired, immature form of lashing out at “the man.” Then again, Porzingis is just 22, and already easily more mature than the man writing his checks, Knicks owner and giant man baby James Dolan.
If Porzingis wants to break off from the Knicks, he can—he just has to wait three years and risk a lot of money to do it. In the summer of 2019, Porzingis will have the option of either signing a contract in restricted free agency, which the Knicks would be able to match to retain him, or he could sign a qualifying offer that would pay him $7.5 million in 2019-20, after which he’d be an unrestricted free agent, free to play for any franchise he chooses.