Losing Porzingis is catastrophic for the Knicks, who are rebuilding the team around him after a painful breakup with their longtime star, Carmelo Anthony, before this season. Porzingis, a 7-foot-3 forward from Latvia, has thrived as the team’s centerpiece, averaging 22.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and a league-leading 2.4 blocks per game this season. Often called a unicorn for his unusual combination of skills, Porzingis makes 39.2 percent of his 3-point attempts despite being tied with Boban Marjanovic of the Los Angeles Clippers for the distinction of being the N.B.A.’s tallest active player.
Before his injury on Tuesday, Porzingis had 10 points and three blocks in just 11 minutes, and the Knicks were winning, 31-30. They were outscored by 73-58 without him, with little worth noting on the Knicks’ side other than Tim Hardaway Jr. suffering through a humiliating dunk in which Antetokounmpo leapt over the 6-foot-6 swingman on his way to the basket.
“I think when K.P. went down, it kind of deflated us some,” Hornacek said. “He is a big part of the things we do. No one is going to feel sorry for you when your guys are out, so you have to step it up.”
While Porzingis, who was selected fourth over all in the 2015 N.B.A. draft, had come into this season with some questions about the durability of his wiry frame — he sat out 26 games combined across his first two seasons — he started 48 of the team’s first 55 games, matching his career-high average of 32.8 minutes a game. He was set to be a reserve for Team LeBron at this month’s All-Star Game, and was also expected to defend his title in the league’s skills challenge.
On Twitter, Dwyane Wade of the Cleveland Cavaliers noted that Porzingis was just one of several high-profile players who had been sidelined by season-ending injuries, a list that includes DeMarcus Cousins of the New Orleans Pelicans, Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics and Jeremy Lin of the Nets. Though they are expected to return at some point, John Wall of the Washington Wizards and Kevin Love of the Cavaliers are also out with serious injuries.
With Tuesday’s loss, the Knicks are 23-32. They have dropped 11 of their last 15 games and, with five games between the Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, any hopes of reaching the postseason have likely been dashed. The combination of Porzingis’s injury and the team’s poor record could lead to a sell-off of some of the team’s older players, including veterans who may be useful to contenders, like Courtney Lee, Kyle O’Quinn and Kanter.
Players from around the league, including Antetokounmpo, took to Twitter to express well-wishes for Porzingis.
Perhaps the most heartfelt message, though, came from Porzingis’s teammate, Willy Hernangomez.