The Knicks’ road trip has been shaky, but good fortune could return as the play of Tim Hardaway Jr. predicts better performance from the ‘Bockers.
Knicks record: 21–26 on the season, 2–3 on the week
Upcoming schedule: 1/23 @ Warriors (37–10), 1/25 @ Nuggets (23–23), 1/26 @ Suns (17–29)
With yet another rough week for the Knickerbockers in the books, New York prepares for a matchup with the defending champions Golden State Warriors. What’s on our minds with more than half the season on the book.
1. Willy’s Minutes
One of the stories seeking the most attention surrounding the Knicks all season has been Willy Hernangómez’s minutes—or lack there of. The former First Team All-Rookie saw only a total of 14 minutes in five games last week, and is averaging a mere 9.3 minutes per game on the season, a significant drop-off from last season’s 18.4 per game. Among Hornacek’s several shortcomings, his most glaring has been his handling of the Spaniard center’s playing time. While O’Quinn may be outplaying Hernangómez, youth development should be the coaching staff’s priority. Young players need to play if they’re going to get better, and that stays true for Willy.
However, what’s more important than playing him more is keeping him on the team. As the NY Post‘s Marc Berman reported recently, while New York hasn’t been shopping him, Willy has drawn a lot of attention from teams around the league. Trading away Hernangómez would be foolish, especially when the Knicks literally have a surplus of big men that could be traded. Willy should be a part of this franchise’s long-term plans, and therefore be untouchable.
2. Burke’s First Week
Last week Knicks fans finally got to see the much anticipated debut of Trey Burke, who lit up the G League during his time with Westchester.
In three games, Burke averaged only 10 minutes per game and put up 16 points on 6-for-11 from the field as well as eight assists. I’d like to see Coach Hornacek give Burke some more playing time in upcoming games, preferably at the expense of Jarrett Jack’s minutes, and not Frank’s. In fact, I wouldn’t mind having a lineup consisting of Frank and Trey out there at the same time (something we saw very briefly versus Los Angeles). Where Ntilikina lacks on offense, Burke makes up for, and where Burke lacks on defense, Ntilikina makes up for. If anything, more Frank and Burke together would make for some interesting basketball, something the Knicks haven’t seen save for the first dozen games of the season.
3. What’s Up With KP?
While Kristaps’ play has looked pretty good as of late, he’s still not quite back to that same dominant form we saw earlier in the season. Ever since a string of injuries had him miss a significant amount of time, KP just hasn’t been the same player he was in the beginning of the season.
As evidenced by his now infamous “I’m tired” quote, in which Porzingis blamed his recent struggles on being flat-out exhausted, it’s become clear that the wear and tear of the NBA season is getting to him. Last week, KP averaged 21.4 points and six rebounds per game; decent numbers, but compare that to his 29.3 and 8.3 in October or 24.2 and 6.1 in November and the drop-off from early in the season becomes clear. Not being well-rested is a cause for concern for any player, and it might be best for KP as well as the team if he takes a few games off at some point to better prepare him for the second half of the season.
4. Timmy’s Back!
After missing time with a stress injury in his leg, Tim Hardaway Jr. finally made his long awaited return against the Timberwolves on two Fridays ago. Since then, he’s brought back some of that scoring that the Knicks missed so much. In his four games back from injury, Timmy is averaging a prolific 22 points per game on 52 percent shooting from the field, including scorching three-point range that opens the court for his teammates.
While it hasn’t helped much in adding to the win column yet, Hardaway Jr.’s scoring is something that New York has desperately needed since he fell out of the lineup in December. Without a consistent second option behind Porzingis, the Knicks just can’t seem to put enough points on the board.
Now that THJ is back, it’ll be interesting to see if his once-again steady presence in the lineup can help the Knicks pick up a few wins to get back on track.
5. Upcoming Schedule
Notable games coming up on the calendar for New York is a matchup with the Warriors at the Oracle on Tuesday and a matchup with the Eastern Conference powerhouse Celtics (losers of three consecutive games) on January 31. Four of their next five games are on the road, where the Knickerbockers tend to struggle.