One of the best moments of Jeff Hornacek's introductory press conference was when he told the story of his initial contact with Kristaps Porzingis via text message. As is his style, the first thing Kristaps wanted his new coach to know is that he's already training hard. That's our boy!
Now it is Kristaps' turn to answer questions about his new coach, in an interview with Ian Begley. Naturally, the Unicorn came off polished as hell, quick to praise the hire and the organization that made it:
"There were a lot of names, coming up -- David Blatt, [Frank] Vogel. Hornacek just came out of the nowhere. I think it's a really good decision from [team president] Phil [Jackson] and [GM] Steve [Mills].
"I think he's a very smart coach. He knows how to use his players and that's exactly what we need. And we'll see if we can get some more players this offseason. But I think we have enough talent and having [Carmelo Anthony] makes everybody better. So if we know how to go from there, using Melo, myself and involving everybody, using everybody's strengths and putting it all together, then we'll be a different team. We'll be able to succeed."
So it was a great choice, everybody who made it is great, Jeff Hornacek will do great things with the players, who are already pretty great, particularly Carmelo Anthony. I'm about to make a statement that will delight the Yankees fans and horrify the Mets fans on this site: Kristaps's ability to give exactly the kind of quotes that will placate the media is eerily reminiscent of Derek Jeter.
Hornacek has already laid out some plans on how to use Porzingis offensively, all of which Kristaps wholeheartedly supports:
"That's exactly what I have to be, the kind of player I have to be," Porzingis said. "[If] a big is on me, use my advantage from the outside, face him up. Smaller [defender], that's one of the things that I've really got to work on. When a really small, aggressive guard is on me, [I have to] be able to get that advantage down low."
Hopefully Hornicek is a little more open to the idea that Kristaps doesn't necessarily have to bang around down low to get an advantage on a smaller player, particularly those who are still much stronger than he is. Roughly half his turnovers last season came when he tried backing down a rugged wing defender on the block; opposing coaches deliberately switched those kinds of players onto him, knowing that he would keep falling into that trap. To his credit, Kristaps adjusted late in the season by using that unstoppable bank shot of his to shoot over smaller post defenders.
And that, my friends, is the great desire of the Hornacek Era -- that the Knicks have paired their hardworking, eager-to-learn franchise player with a coach who is smart and flexible enough to find the best ways to use him. Wouldn't that be something!