HOUSTON – Kristaps Porzingis said that a tight back prompted him to miss Saturday night’s game against the Rockets, leaving the Knicks further short-handed to cope with one of the best teams in the NBA.
Earlier this season Porzingis stated that he’s being more careful with his body after a slew of injuries derailed last season, but added Saturday that his absence had nothing to do with resting in the second game of a back-to-back.
The 22-year-old said his back stiffened after Friday’s loss in Atlanta, before it gradually worsened following a flight and a night in a hotel bed.
“It just got tighter,” he said.
This is Porzingis’ DNP this season due to small injuries, with both occurring on the road in the second game of a back-to-back. He dealt with back pain last season and called this similar.
“I want to play as many games as I can but when it’s something like this it’s better for me to be healthy than push through this game and maybe not have a great game – have a bad game even – and then nobody is going to appreciate that,” Porzingis said. “I’d rather be healthy. …It’s just important to keep my core strong and work on my back and keep it strong and that way I have no problems.”
The other Knicks frontcourt starter — Enes Kanter — also sat in Houston because of back problems, and he was noticeably favoring his side while walking through the locker room pregame. The Knicks started Michael Beasley and Kyle O’Quinn at power forward and center, respectively.
Jeff Hornacek said the Knicks decided against flying in Joakim Noah, who didn’t travel to Atlanta for Friday’s game because of an illness. Noah still has not been active for a game this season.
“We talked about it but with (Noah) being sick it just probably wasn’t right. It’s tough to play centers against the Rockets anyway the way they play,” Hornacek said.
In their last game at Houston on New Year’s Eve, Porzingis sat with a sore Achilles, Carmelo Anthony was limited with a knee injury and the Rockets still needed a historic performance from James Harden (53 points, 17 assists, 16 rebounds) to squeak out a victory.
Hornacek was hoping for a similar effort.
“Just go out there and play hard,” Hornacek said. “That’s what we want to do no matter who plays. Just play hard, play together. Guys who step in there and play, it’s not like we need them to fill K.P.’s 30 points and Enes’ 20 rebounds. Just play your game. Everybody has to step it up in cases like this.”