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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.”
Marc Berman: Kristaps: Says has “great relationship” with Hornacek, doesn’t “know where it’s coming from.”
Barbara Barker: “I’m coming in with a fresh mind.The past is the past. ” Kristaps Porzingis. pic.twitter.com/jiBGld9JEC
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.
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September 20, 2021 | 7:05 pm EDT Update
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