NEW YORK (AP) — Kristaps Porzingis’ left knee is getting better, though it could be at least two months before he plays again.
Team President Steve Mills said Friday the team is pleased with Porzingis’ recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament ACL, and another round of testing scheduled for mid-February could clarify his timeline for his return.
The Knicks hope their All-Star forward will be ready to play this season, but won’t push it.
“We’d like him to get on the court, we’d love to see him play,” Mills said. “But we also acknowledge that he is a really, really important part of the long-term future of this franchise and one thing we’re not going to do is take any real risk with a 22-year-old player in his position.”
Porzingis was hurt Feb. 6 after landing on a dunk in a game against Milwaukee. He has gone through a series of tests during his rehab, but Mills said they want to see more improvement before Porzingis can move onto the next level of activity.
For now, he is working individually with a coach, able to do some pull-up shooting and dunking. But Mills won’t speculate about when Porzingis can do more, or even if he will get on the court in February if he meets the necessary benchmarks at the next evaluation.
“It’s a fluid process so I don’t want to say that’s what will happen, but I also don’t want to say that it’s impossible to happen,” Mills said. “I’m not really sure. We’re going to see as he sort of ramps up his progression how he feels.”
The Knicks are near the bottom of the league with a 9-24 record entering their game Friday against Atlanta, so Porzingis won’t be able to save them this season. But having him on the court could help them in the summer, as potential free agents may want to see if the 7-foot-3 Latvian is fully back before they would consider the Knicks.
But Mills said that won’t play into the Knicks’ thinking.
“The most important thing for us is to have Kristaps on the court when he feels comfortable being on the court and we feel comfortable that he should be out there,” Mills said. “That’s more important than any timetable this season, some point in the summer. The most important thing is that we know that we’ve got this guy in a place that he feels comfortable on the floor and we feel comfortable in his ability to be part of what we’re doing long term. That’s more important than anything else that we can lay out.”
Mills also declined to discuss how Porzingis’ recovery would factor into whether the team offers him a contract extension in the summer.
He believes Porzingis – who grew so fed up with the franchise in its final days under Phil Jackson that he skipped his exit meeting before returning to Europe for the summer – is pleased with the team now. Mills said Porzingis is almost always at the practice facility and sits with teammates during film sessions.
But Mills said there haven’t been any discussions about if Porzingis wants to join them on the court this season.
“We really haven’t talked about it because we’ve always left it in the context of he’s going to play whenever we feel like he’s ready to play and whenever he feels like he’s ready to play,” Mills said.