The fate of the Knicks — and possibly team president Phil Jackson — is now linked to Kristaps Porzingis, writes Mike Breshnahan of The Los Angeles Times. The fifth overall pick in June’s draft, who was loudly booed at the time by the New York crowd, has been an early success, averaging 12.3 points and 8.3 rebounds through the Knicks’ first six games. With Jackson hoping to start luring big-name free agents to New York, he needs Porzingis to be part of a solid foundation to sell them on the future. Porzingis is showing early signs that he can do that. “Porzingis is their best player on the court,” an unidentified scout told Breshnahan. “Hands down.”
There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird told Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald that he understands the trials former teammate Danny Ainge, who holds the same title in Boston, is facing as he tries to rebuild the Celtics. “It’s definitely a four-year deal,” said Bird. “The problem in our league is that if you get stuck in the middle [of the draft] like with the 14 to 18th pick, you can get good players there, but they’re not game-changers.” Boston could take a giant step forward next summer when it will have the Nets‘ first-round draft pick, and possibly first-rounders from the Mavericks and Wolves.
- T.J. McConnell has been a pleasant surprise for the Sixers, but Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer warns that his playing time could be affected when Kendall Marshall and Tony Wroten return from ACL tears. Coach Brett Brown said Friday that he isn’t certain when the injured point guards will be back. Previous estimates had Marshall returning sometime this month and Wroten available in December. “I’m doing my part to come back,” Wroten said. “Obviously, they said December. But I want to come back earlier if it’s right. So I’m taking it one day at a time, and hopefully I’ll come back sooner.”
- One bright spot for the winless Nets has been the play of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, writes Tim Bontemps of The New York Post. The rookie made his first start Friday, replacing Markel Brown, and Bontemps says the move could be permanent.