We’ve all heard of the rookie wall, but the junior wall?
Those that have had reservations about Kristaps Porzingis being capable of being the franchise player for the New York Knicks got some ammunition on Wednesday night when the Knicks got clobbered by the Washington Wizards in D.C.
In all fairness to Porzingis, who admitted to being “tired” after the loss, Tim Hardaway, Jr. has been missing in action for the Knicks for the past 17 games. It was with his help that Porzingis was able to electrify the league during the early weeks of the season and have fans in New York thinking playoffs.
A few weeks later, the Knicks enter play on January 4 at 18-20. They’re 3-7 in their last 10 games, have fallen one game outside of the playoffs and are just three games in the loss column ahead of the 12th-seeded Charlotte Hornets.
Regardless, the Knicks can easily find ways to explain their recent futility, but Porzingis simply needs to understand one of the most commonly cited adages in competitive activities: never let them see you sweat.
“I’m tired. I’m tired. I’m so tired right now,” Porzingis was quoted as telling the assembled media after the Knicks lost to the Wizards.
“I have one day now to rest my legs and then get back and play better and have more energy and also try and bring the team’s energy up.”
Sure, Porzingis might still be learning what life is like having a target on your chest each and every night, but even he should know that complaining about being tired and openly talking about a need to have a mental respite in Miami isn’t the type of thing franchise players do, at least not when your team is struggling.
Does anyone recall LeBron James, in his third year, complaining about being tired?
What about Kevin Durant?
Heck, how about Carmelo?
It doesn’t happen, and if Porzingis’ admission does one thing for us, it again highlights the double-standard that exists among the media that covers the game’s stars. If Carmelo ever made such a declaration while the Knicks were in a funk, he would have been roasted. Yet many Knicks fans, who’ve mostly fallen in love with Porzingis, want to have you believe that his admission is no big deal.
Whether his intention or not, Porzingis’ comments are a show of weakness that, at best, reveal him to be a bit too honest and a victim of poor timing and, at worst, proof that he’s not capable of being the night-in, night-out star that Anthony was during his time in New York.
To be fair and frank, there have been some well-founded concerns raised about the durability of Porzingis. He missed 10 games his rookie year and 16 games last season. With the additional burden he’s been asked to carry since Anthony’s departure, he’s missed six games already and, lately, has been a shell of the efficient version of himself we saw earlier this season.
Context is everything, and right now, Porzingis’ “honest” admission was simply ill-timed.
Yes, being a superstar is hard. But to whom much is given, much is required. And Porzingis has been given a lot.
Fortunately, for the Knicks, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The team owns its own first round pick in this year’s draft, and with the NBA draft lottery’s odd changing this season, teams rounding out the latter end of the lottery will have increased odds of landing a top pick.
But for those that believed that the Knicks were a surefire playoff team this season after their relatively hot start, Porzingis’ comments should come as a rude awakening. Those that also believe he’s a surefire franchise pillar, at the very least, should take note.
The best ability, after all, is availability. Second is durability.
Between now and the end of January, the Knicks will play 11 of 14 games on the road. Aside from minutes, one of the other factors that commonly wear players down over the course of the season is extensive travel, which the Knicks will have a lot of.
Porzinigis might be a unicorn, but he’s not an ironman—not yet, at least. He said so himself.
Hopefully, for his sake, the Knicks can get him some help soon, because whether you like it or not, based on his inconsistency, injuries and his being “tired” before the All-Star break, it’s fair to wonder whether his body is cut out for the rigors of an 82-game season.
It’s also fair to wonder whether he’s capable of shouldering the crushing burden of being a franchise player.
That job requires a player to show up, play and play well, every night.
Tired or not.
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