There isn’t much good about the Knicks right now. Star forward Kristaps Porzingis, the brightest star in a faded galaxy of a franchise, tore his ACL earlier this week, continuing New York’s slow spiral to irrelevance.
But Porzingis’s injury helped create some opportunities for the team’s young players, and one undrafted Commodore is making the most of it.
Luke Kornet, Vanderbilt’s All-SEC center, made his first NBA appearance on Thursday night after spending the entirety of his rookie year with the G-League’s Westchester Knicks. He made the most of his shot — scoring 11 points (with three three-pointers) while adding 10 rebounds and four blocks in a loss to the Raptors.
It was only a surprise if you haven’t been paying attention to the 7’1 standout. Kornet had developed into one of the G-League’s most promising big men in his four months as a pro. In 33 games in the minors, he averaged 15.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks while making more than 44 percent of his three pointers. His ability to stretch the floor with his shooting while providing rim protection in the paint makes him a commodity — even with a New York team stocked with centers.
It took a storm of circumstance for Kornet to get his shot. Not only did Porzingis get hurt, but the team’s ongoing feud with former Memorial Gym hatred target Joakim Noah also took another big man out of the Knicks’ lineup. That still left Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn at center, but Kornet’s ability to make shots from anywhere on the court gives him the chops to spell Michael Beasley at power forward as well. That’s the kind of flexibility he developed playing alongside Damian Jones at Vanderbilt.
Kornet’s big debut didn’t help New York win, but victories may be in short supply for the 23-33 Knicks now that Porzingis is done for the season. That should mean more playing time for the team’s young prospects -- and more opportunities for Kornet to shine as a rookie.