Ian Begley: Kristaps Porzingis’ exit meeting with Kni…

More on Hornacek-Porzingis Dynamic

Meanwhile, according to an NBA source, the Noah-O’Quinn shouting incidents weren’t the first time the lame-duck Knicks coach got profanities thrown his way by a Knicks player. The source told The Post that late last season, Kristaps Porzingis, normally the politest of souls, cursed out Hornacek during a practice, using the F-word. While players and coaches get at it behind closed doors more than you’d think, the Porzingis-Hornacek tiff partially underscored why Porzingis didn’t show up for his exit meeting. Phil Jackson wasn’t the lone target of his franchise disgruntlement.
Much of the [Knicks' early success] credit belongs to Jeff Hornacek, who is demonstrating his capabilities as a coach when freed from triangle shackles and the obligations of building a system around Carmelo Anthony's 35 minutes per game. In a matter of one month, Hornacek went from the hot seat to orchestrating a start worthy of Coach of the Year consideration. "He just has more freedom," Porzingis said. "He's running the stuff he wants to run and what he sees for us. And you can tell he's more comfortable. He's not balancing between different things. So that's a good thing. We also feel confidence from that. They're 100-percent confident in what they're doing. We also feel that. Players always feel that. And there's a difference between last year and this year."
Hornacek was set up to fail by Phil Jackson, just like his predecessor, Derek Fisher. The idea that an executive could force a coach to run the triangle was folly. For the first time Monday, Porzingis acknowledged it undermined Hornacek in the locker room. "He was maybe forced to run a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Do this, do that. And that's when you can tell. As a player, you feel that. And when things are not going well, there are a lot of players who are saying, 'Why are we doing this?'" Porzingis said. "When you believe in something — even if you're not doing well — sooner or later those things start to work out."
There is also the matter of reports, including several from the Daily News that Porzingis' relationship with Jeff Hornacek is on thin ice. Porzingis, who spoke to The News after he was spotted at a midtown eatery Sunday afternoon, declined to address the circumstances behind blowing off his end of the season meeting with Jackson, Hornacek and Steve Mills. The 22-year-old forward would only say, "Honestly, I would love for this year to be a new start. All I'm looking for is a fresh start and not to talk about that anymore."
Porzingis, however, does stand by his decision to return to Latvia and workout on his own. "It was important that I disconnected from everything," he added. "I was working on my game and resting my mind. I kept working hard this summer to put myself in this position. I'm coming in with a fresh mind. I don't want to carry anything from the previous season."
Q: Is Kristaps Porzingis ready to be “The Man”? Hornacek: I think back at Kobe Bryant, and we played them in the playoffs, and big part of the game, and he must have been a rookie, and he came down and took two shots from the elbow, kind of turnaround, typical Kobe Bryant, but he was young. He shot two air balls, and we win the game. But from that point on, you said: “OK, that kid’s gonna be good,” because he had no qualms about taking that shot. And that’s the development that KP is probably ready to go into, and to be that. I would never put that on a guy at this point to say, “Hey, you’re ‘The Guy.’ ” But you want him to have opportunities to grow into that.
“KP and I have a good relationship,” Hornacek said. “I’m not going to comment on any reports that say otherwise. We texted with him all summer. We followed him through Euro basket. We’re very happy with his conditioning, the way he played out there, the way he took on the role of leader for that Latvian team. I think he’s excited to get back. We’re excited to get back at it.”
According to a report by Peter Vecsey, Hornacek rode Porzingis hard last season and their feud culminated in explosive fashion. Willy Hernangomez is Porzingis’ best friend on the team, and at one point, Hornacek reportedly cornered the Spanish big man and told him to tell Porzingis to stop “stop playing like a pu**y.” That led Porzingis to skip out on his exit interview and basically shut down any relationship with his head coach. Vecsey does note that he’s heard Porzingis and Hornacek are back on speaking terms, either through text or through Hernangomez. We’ll see how long that lasts.
Hornacek's relationship with Porzingis isn't great, despite what the coach now says. And it certainly didn't improve once Porzingis' favorite assistant coach, Josh Longstaff, was fired.
Storyline: Hornacek-Porzingis Dynamic
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July 28, 2021 | 7:51 am EDT Update

Devin Booker: 'There's no hate towards Jrue Holiday or Khris Middleton'

And two players from the Bucks are not only also on the American team, but circumstances were such that the three had to share a private plane ride across the Pacific last weekend — a day after the Bucks’ championship parade. “The memories are there, but it’s nothing personal between us,” Booker said. “We lost and that’s it, and I’m man enough to accept that and move on. There’s no hate towards Jrue or K Mid.”
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Months after LeBron James lost a Finals, he’d always say it was something he’d never get over. Good thing he never had to be Devin Booker, who barely had 10 minutes to try and put it behind him. “I’m a forward thinker and able to move onto the next thing, and be able to take my ‘L’ and move on,” Booker said Wednesday, in his first comments since the night his Phoenix Suns lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, eight days ago.
Booker’s coach on Team USA, Gregg Popovich, and teammate Draymond Green (not to mention assistant coach Steve Kerr, but we digress) have been in Booker’s shoes, having lost a Finals. He said Popovich and Green discussed it with him “in short conversation.” “Talkin’ about it with Draymond, and him stressing the fact that it’s not gonna be that easy to get back to the Finals,” Booker said. “I remember us as a team saying that in the locker room after we lost — you know we’ve got to understand, it’s going to be even harder to make it to the point we were at. … But I’m excited for the experience. It was great. I am glad I got to do it, obviously ended up on the wrong side of the stick, but that’s life.”
“It’s a HUGE deal,” former NBA player Raja Bell said of the international ball in a text with CBS Sports on Tuesday. “I’ve always said that FIBA balls affected my shot and other NBA players’ shots tremendously. I HATE that ball! “It’s lighter, feels smaller, different texture,” Bell continued. “I mean, when the art of shooting is based on muscle memory, and you change all the factors except the rim size and height, it’s going to be difficult.”
Storyline: Olympic Games
In another exchange with a Western Conference scout, the conclusion was similar. “[The ball is] definitely a factor,” the scout said. “How big a factor I guess depends on the particular player. But it’s an adjustment for everyone. Some guys are going to make [the adjustment] easier than others.” And another text from an Eastern Conference scout with international playing experience: “It’s pretty different, and it takes some getting used to. It’s much softer than NBA or college basketballs.”
It should be comforting for Jalen Johnson to know he’ll be a first-round selection in Thursday night’s NBA draft. What should be more stressful for the former Nicolet High School standout is where he’ll actually be chosen. Johnson, a talented 6-foot-9 forward, has elicited a wide-range of opinions from NBA draft personnel. Said one longtime NBA personnel director of Johnson: “He is, to me, the biggest wild-card in the draft. I wouldn’t be shocked if he went in the lottery, like around 12 or so, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he fell into the 20s.’’
“Part of the evolution of African interest and passion for the game goes back to Hakeem’s entry into the game,” said Victor Williams, chief executive of NBA Africa. “Giannis is doing the same thing for today’s generation of African kids — and they do recognize him as African.” Antetokounmpo is known as “The Greek Freak” because he was born in Athens, but he grew up in a Nigerian home. His mother, Veronica, is Igbo. His late father, Charles, is from the same Yoruba tribe as Olajuwon. His last name — Adetokunbo — was Hellenized when he finally became a citizen of Greece and received his passport, one month before the Bucks drafted him 15th in 2013.
In the 2020 draft, nine players from or with at least one parent from Nigeria were selected. Seven players in the Finals had ties to Africa: Mamadi Diakite (Guinea); Abdel Nader (Egypt); Axel Toupane (Senegal); and Deandre Ayton, Jordan Nwora and Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Nigeria). “In a continent that is vastly made up of a young, vibrant, dynamic population, that’s the future,” Fall said. “So to see these young people on the global stage doing big things, I think across borders, whether he’s from Nigeria or Congo or Côte d’Ivoire, everybody is watching the NBA. What they are doing continues to build and add to the narrative and the momentum that’s been shaping up, in terms of basketball development on the continent.”