As losing continues, Jeff Hornacek considers starting Kristaps Porzingis at center
The New York Knicks' season is trending in the wrong direction, threatening to spiral into irrelevancy if things don’t change. It seems that coach Jeff Hornacek is well aware of this.
He changed his starting lineup for the first time Monday -- and more changes might be coming soon.
On several occasions Monday, Hornacek said the coaching staff is thinking about starting Kristaps Porzingis at center. Porzingis has missed the past three games for the Knicks (18-24) because of a sore left Achilles -- the same injury that caused Porzingis to sit out three games last month -- and hopes to return soon.
Here’s what Hornacek had to say about moving Porzingis to center after Monday’s loss to Atlanta:
"We’ve got to look at everything. ... In the long run, we’ve got to look at hey, when KP comes back, what, will it change everything all together and what it will do? Sometimes it’s a chance you have to take, but we continue to look over that. We just need to mix it up maybe a little more."
Moving Porzingis to center would send starting center Joakim Noah to the second unit and move Carmelo Anthony to power forward. Anthony has historically played well at power forward, though the alignment of Anthony and Porzingis on the front line might handicap the Knicks' defense.
Hornacek said on Monday that one of the biggest hurdles would be how playing Anthony at power forward would change the Knicks' alignment on offense. But it’s certainly something the coach is strongly considering.
Moving Porzingis to center would be the second significant lineup change for New York.
On Monday, Hornacek inserted Ron Baker into the starting lineup in place of shooting guard Courtney Lee.
It was a bit surprising, because Lee didn’t seem to be at the root of the Knicks' struggles on defense, which has been their biggest issue during this current 2-11 skid.
Hornacek said he wanted to get Lee more offensive opportunities with the second unit -- and that he trusted Baker to move the ball, make the right decisions on offense and defend well.
Lee took the move to the bench in stride when speaking with reporters after the game. He posted pictures from the movie "Dumb and Dumber To" on Instagram later Monday, but he explained that the photos were not a passive aggressive shot at anyone in the organization.
Privately, players have been grumbling about lineups and rotations during the recent losing skid, according to sources. Brandon Jennings hinted at this after Monday's loss when he spoke with frustration about the inconsistent nature of the Knicks' recent lineups.
"Every day is something new. So just got to be ready, I guess. You never know when you're going to play," he said.
Jennings was asked if the inconsistent rotations make things difficult for players.
"Yeah, when you come in here you don't really know what's going to happen, so it's kind of no consistency and it's really tough right now," he said. "Right now, you come in here you don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m struggling. It’s difficult for me, because I don’t really know what’s going on. Just take it one day at a time."
Jennings’ frustration stems from the Knicks' failure to meet internal expectations.
"We could be doing something special here. Losing games like this really hurts," he said. "But like I said, you really never know what's going to happen each game."
Ian Begley ESPN Staff Writer