The cruelest and saddest of NBA winters has struck again, this time
Kristaps Porzingis represented something different. He wasn’t some outsider coming to the rescue and to pocket big checks from owner James Dolan. He wasn’t some prodigal son, selling a homecoming story and hoping nostalgia could mask the failures. He was a homegrown hope. One of their own. Drafted and groomed to be a star. Destined to define the future as the reward for those many decades of agony.
But unlike Patrick Ewing, the legend whose presence the franchise has sought unsuccessfully to replace this entire millennium, Porzingis arrived with more doubt than hype in 2015. Porzingis created his own hysteria, defying the boos with a game so unique and mystifying for a 7-footer that Kevin Durant dubbed him “unicorn.” Though he hails from Latvia, Porzingis is New York. He’s got so much confidence, he’s dripping Swagu. He wants the pressure and scrutiny that comes from playing in the league’s most unforgiving and arguably most passionate city. He’s hunting greatness and has the work ethic, skill set and insane wingspan to possibly grab it.
That’s what the Knicks lost for likely an entire year, if not more, Tuesday night, when Porzingis crumpled to the floor in a heap after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Porzingis had thrown down an impressive dunk over Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo — another European player with whom he is expected to own the league for years to come — but landed awkwardly, setting off one of the fastest transitions from exhilaration to exasperation.
All of Madison Square Garden fell silent as Porzingis clutched his knee and was assisted by his teammates off the court. Team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry, the men responsible for executing the Knicks’ Porzingis-led path, both covered their heads in disbelief and immediately rushed to the back to check on the first-time All-Star who might not be able to play in the actual game until 2020.
For now, the wait won’t matter so long as Porzingis can return to All-Star form again. But when it comes to knees, there are no guarantees. Chicago Bulls fans surely never imagin