The New York Knicks' Tuesday night throttling at the hands of the Denver Nuggets was one of the franchise's most positive recent developments in at least one regard: Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant shared the court for nine whole minutes. At this rate, the Porzingis will finally have more on-court experience playing with Grant (245 total minutes) than with Sasha Vujacic (249 total minutes).
Welcome to Knicksworld, where two first-round picks can drift past one another in the rotation like ships in the night. Grant's playing time has been sporadic ever since opposing defenses learned he couldn't shoot (28.1% on jump shots) but even in the beginning of the season, when the rookie from Notre Dame looked like an immediate contributor, the pairing was hampered by then-coach Derek Fisher's insistence on playing all-bench lineups. Something always seems to keep these two apart.
Wanna know how rare it is to see Grant and Porzingis together? While looking for a headline photo for this piece I searched "Jerian Grant Kristaps Porzingis" in two separate news photo databases. Not one hit. "Loch Ness Monster" turned up eight photos, for God's sake!"
It's a damn shame, because Kristaps might just be the key to Grant's NBA salvation. The duo should work in theory: Grant is the Knicks' most tenacious pick-and-roll point guard, and Porzingis is by far the team's best pick-and-roll big man. Of all the teammates who have paired with Grant this season, Porzingis has been by far the most successful (per Basketball-Reference):
Certainly nothing to write home about, but a -0.2 net rating is a far cry better than the Knicks' craptacular -2.9 overall mark. It's heartening to see that the top three names on that list -- Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony and Langston Galloway -- are all likely part of the team's future.
And there is at least some evidence that Grant gets Porzingis the ball where he likes it. According to NBA Stats, Porzingis is shooting at a tasty 48.1 FG% / 41.5 3P% clip off passes from his fellow rook, a highest three-point percentage and second-highest field goal percentage from any teammate.
Sadly, these sample sizes remain painfully small. Not only do Grant and Porzingis rarely see the court together, they're practically forbidden from running the pick-and-roll which should be their bread and butter. Interim head coach Kurt Rambis wants Porzingis to work on his inside game, which means the best-case Grant/Porzingis scenario is in watching New York's most dynamic point guard throwing post entry passes to New York's most dynamic big man.
Rambis continues to put a positive spin on Jerian Grant's oft-painful rookie season, but has remained stubborn about playing New York's crusty old vets. Per Newsday:
"We're all excited about Jerian. We think he does a terrific job in practice for us."
"None of us in the organization are discouraged by anything that Jerian's done,. He's been terrific for us. It's just hard for him to break into that rotation."
Sure, that rotation sucks, and these games are all but meaningless, but no matter! In meantime, Knicks fans will have to hold out hope for more fleeting glimpses of the Grant-Porzingis connection, which should be the foundation of the franchises' future ... once they come to their sense, that is.