All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his left knee Tuesday night, an injury that will end any playoff aspirations for the New York Knicks and puts into question the long-term durability of the young Latvian star.
Porzingis was hurt early in the second quarter of the Knicks’ game against the Milwaukee Bucks. After scoring on a dunk, Porzingis landed on the foot of Giannis Antetokounmpo, and immediately grabbed his left knee in pain. The 7’3” player was helped off the court by teammates, and an MRI after the game confirmed the severity of the injury.
Knicks Were Already Facing Long Odds
Porzingis is expected to miss at least 10 months due to the injury, which will require surgery. Given his importance to the future of the franchise, it’s likely that the Knicks will hold the 22-year-old out even longer to ensure that he is completely healthy before returning to action. That probably means missing at least a portion of the 2018-19 season as well.
At 23-32, the Knicks were in no way regarded as a title contender: at William Hill, for instance, they are available at 200/1 odds to win the NBA Championship this year. But before the injury to Porzingis, the team still thought they could make a run at making the playoffs.
Now, with their best player sidelined and minor injuries to other key players such as Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Enes Kanter, the Knicks are likely to scrap plans to compete for a playoff spot. Instead, the team will take a closer look at younger players down the stretch to see how they might contribute to the team next year and beyond.
For Porzingis’ teammates, the injury goes well beyond concerns over wins and losses.
“More than a basketball player, he’s my brother,” Kanter said after the game. “I don’t want to see anyone going down like that, hurting his knee. He’s about to be an All-Star. I’m just going to pray for him tonight.”
Bright Future Put In Question
In his third season in the NBA, Porzingis was having a season that had put him among the best players in the league. He was averaging 22.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, and was leading the league in blocked shots. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time, and won a Player of the Week award in early November.
But an ACL injury could put Porzingis’ career trajectory into question. While plenty of players have come back from similar issues, there is often a sharp decline in performance, particularly for the first season or so after they return to the court.
Porzingis also has a history of injury issues, though nothing as serious as the one he is now trying to recover from. He had missed seven games this season already due to various minor ailments, and has had to sit out 33 games in total over his first three seasons.
The injury to Porzingis is just the latest to an NBA star this season. Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers is currently out 6-8 weeks with a fractured left hand, while Celtics star Gordon Hayward is sitting out the entire season after fracturing his left ankle in the team’s first game.