CHICAGO - In his three seasons in the NBA, Kristaps Porzingis' points production had steadily climbed from 14.3 to 18.1 to 22.7. His rebounds average is 7.1 a contest and with 2.4 blocked shots a game this season he leads the league in that category.
Through 186 games, the 7-foot-3 forward from Latvia has made 390 of 889 field goals (43.9 percent) and 283 of 763 triples (36 percent). He is also bankable from the charity stripe with 617 makes in 767 tries (80.4 percent).
The No.4 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Porzingis signed a rookie scale contract that paid him $8.4 million in his first two seasons, $4.5 million this season and $5.6 million next season. According to ESPN, the Knicks, pleased with their 22-year old star's progress, were prepared to offer him a five-year contract extension worth $157 million.
And then fate intervened.
With 8:50 left in the second quarter of the Knicks' bout with the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden last Wednesday morning, Porzingis made a hard cut to the basket, caught a nifty bounce pass, and then took two gentle steps closer to the hoop before slamming the ball in front of Giannis Antetokounmpo's mug.
The finish was a blockbuster, The landing was a disaster. Porzingis tore the ACL in his left knee.
He will be out, at least for 10 months, according to multiple reports. And the Knicks, five games behind the No.8 ranked Philadelphia 76ers, are not going to make the playoffs, not without their best player and leading scorer.
Imagine the grief of being a Knicks fan. After going through years of Melo-drama and enduring long seasons of front office ineptness, they lost the hope - albeit temporarily - they thought they found in the Unicorn.
CAVS CIRCUS CONTINUES I used to love watching the Cleveland Cavaliers play because of the sheer majesty of LeBron James and the fluidity of their inside-out offense. Now, I watch them only out of curiosity, waiting for the wheels to fall off.
The Orlando Magic, the worst team in the East, came to the Quicken Loans on Wednesday and promptly trailed by 21 points. They rallied to embarrass the Cavs, 116-98. The stinging loss resulted in a back and forth exchange of words between Isaiah Thomas and head coach Tyronn Lue about in-game adjustments.
Losers in 13 of their last 19 games, the Cavs proved on Thursday that they have a lot of fight left in them. Thanks to a LeBron buzzer-beater, the Cavaliers took down Jimmy Butler and the Minnesota Timberwolves in overtime, 140-138.
With a 31-22 record, the Cavs kept third spot in the East. But the morale-boosting victory doesn't change the big picture. The Cavaliers defense is so bad they couldn't guard the '76 Crispa Redmanizers.
According to basketballreference.com, Cleveland's defensive rating of 112.2 is 29th of 30 in the NBA. They gave up 125 plus points five times in January and this season they are 2-10 against elite teams.
Kevin Love is out with a broken left hand. J.R. Smith's shooting is out of sync. Converting just 28 percent of his field goals in the last five games. Thomas out of sight. All these negative vibe just makes LeBron wanna get out of town, right?
ROCKETS RISING. Don't look now, but with six wins in a row, the 40-13 Houston Rockets are closing in on the 41-13 Golden State Warriors for the best record in the NBA. At stake for the two heavyweights is homecourt advantage in the Western Conference Finals where they are destined to meet.
I thought the Chris Paul-James Harden tandem won't work because both stars want the ball. I was wrong. Paul is thriving under the Rockets run-and-gun system with an average of 19.5 points and 8.3 assists per game while Harden is having another MVP campaign - 31.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 9 dimes a contest.
But I still think Houston doesn't have enough to beat Golden State.
The Warriors were already formidable with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. With the addition of Kevin Durant, they are simply unbeatable in a seven-game series. It's like fighting a boxer with three arms.