The New York Knicks’ future just got a whole lot bleaker.
Early in the second quarter of their Tuesday night loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Kristaps Porzingis completed a dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo, only to land awkwardly on his fellow unicorn’s foot. He crumpled to the floor and immediately began writhing in pain, all but confirming the worst-possible outcomes.
Here’s video of the incident for those who care to watch it:
Porzingis injury: pic.twitter.com/wq9ykNhpmZ
— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) February 7, 2018
Soon after, once the game ended, it became official: Porzingis suffered an ACL tear in his left knee and will miss the rest of the season. Here’s ESPN.com’s Ian Begley with more:
As of late Tuesday night, surgery for Porzingis had not been scheduled. A timetable for his return will be established after surgery, but the expectation is that Porzingis will be sidelined for at least 10 months. . . .
His injury will have a ripple effect for New York. Before Porzingis went down, the Knicks remained hopeful of making a playoff run and planned to operate at the deadline with intentions of remaining competitive. With Porzingis hurt, the Knicks (23-32) probably will recalibrate those plans and look to play young players such as Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke more often in the final 27 games.
Glossing over how ridiculous it is that the Knicks needed to lose Porzingis to think about playing Frank Ntilikina more, this stroke of bad luck changes everything about the team’s future. Given the typical timeline for ACL recoveries, which seem to range anywhere between eight and 12 months, though they can sometimes last longer, Porzingis projects to miss a significant chunk of next year, if he plays at all.
Leading into Tuesday, he felt like a lock to receive a max extension from the Knicks this summer. That will probably have to wait now. The Milwaukee Bucks did the same with Jabari Parker, passing on the chance to pay him this past fall and electing instead to see how he responds to the recovery from his second ACL injury. Unless Porzingis is willing to sign a below-market extension (unlikely), the Knicks must do the same.
In the meantime, they will tank—organically more so than deliberately. They don’t have the tools to win without him, and only five games separate them in the loss column from the league’s worst record. That’s the silver lining. But it’s hard to fully appreciate the faintest bit of upside when this Porzingis issue is one that could leak into next February, once again tethering the Knicks to awkward lottery territory and a star on the verge of a massive contract working off a major injury.