Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek said he and forward Kristaps Porzingis have a "great relationship" despite a report indicating the 22-year-old forward skipped his exit interview due to him instead of former team president Phil Jackson.
"KP and I have a good relationship," Hornacek said on Friday. "Moving forward, he's going to get a lot of opportunities to grow into that lead position. We're just excited to get back to coaching him."
Former NBA TV analyst Peter Vecsey wrote in August that Porzingis "resented being singled out for criticism and acted out accordingly" by skipping his exit interview following the 2016-17 season in which the Knicks finished 31-51.
Porzingis has said he hopes to stay with New York for his entire NBA career, and said he was upset with the way Jackson handled public trade rumors regarding teammate Carmelo Anthony.
"There's still so much for me to learn from him," Porzingis said about Anthony. "I would love to have him around and keep playing alongside him. But it is what it is. It's a business."
Wrote Vecsey: "Contention definitely existed between Porzingis and Jackson. As far as I know, though their relationship wasn't loosely malignant. It centered on Kristaps' refusal to provide information pertaining to his off-season medical and strength-training regimen. He missed 16 games, six more than his rookie season. Jackson had grown increasingly concerned the promising franchise player was wearing down from recurring tactical body rubs."
Porzingis, who averaged 18.1 points and 7.2 rebounds in 66 games in his second season with New York, will be with the Knicks for the next two seasons and can become a free agent following the 2018-19 season. Team president Steve Mills said he has texted Porzingis during the offseason and is optimistic in what he brings to the franchise.
"He's certainly indicated he's excited about coming back, and looking forward to a great year," Mills said on Friday.
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Luckily, Jeff Hornacek isn't going to be on Maury and given a lie detector test. Peter Vecsey has been covering the NBA for a long time and I highly doubt he would just make that story up. It's hard to actually believe that the relationship was 'good' between Kristaps Porzingis and Hornacek. If it was good, it may have been because Hornacek was going through Willy Hernangomez to get to Porzingis like a game of telephone.
Whatever the issue was, it's time to move on. The Knicks will likely be without Carmelo Anthony, and Porzingis knows that once Melo is gone, he immediately becomes the face of the New York Knicks. That's a huge weight to hold and one that should mature the Latvian big man. Porzingis just turned 22 years old and is just a few years into his NBA career. He's still got a whole lot to learn. Hornacek still has a lot to learn as a head coach as well.
Expect this relationship to improve this season. Hornacek now has a year in New York under his belt, while Porzingis has two years under his. The Knicks have six new players on the roster, which is a number that can go up if Anthony is traded. There's a lot of youth here that needs to be taught the game properly, and any drama between the head coach and franchise player could make things a disaster.