NEW YORK — Kristaps Porzingis says the organization has more “confidence” in the Knicks’ offense this season now that head coach Jeff Hornacek is “running his own stuff.”
Last year, under the influence of ex-team president Phil Jackson, Hornacek blended aspects of Jackson’s triangle offense into sets that he ran while coaching the Phoenix Suns, which players and coaches said led to confusion amid a 51-loss campaign.
“This year you can feel that Jeff has more, he’s running his own stuff without anybody coming in and telling him what to do or how to do so I think from the top down you can feel that there’s more confidence in what we’re doing,” Porzingis said in an interview with ESPN Radio’s The Michael Kay Show on Tuesday. “It’s a better feeling this way.”
Hornacek addressed the same topic earlier Tuesday when he was asked about LeBron James’ assessment of the Knicks’ offense.
After leading the Cavs to a come-from-behind win over New York on Monday, James said that the Knicks’ offense is more effective because Hornacek has the freedom to run what he chooses. “I think Jeff, the coach, Jeff Hornacek is finally — with the release of the old fella, he’s finally allowed to implement what he wants to do on the team and he’s showing it’s very effective,” James said.
Hornacek was asked on Tuesday about the accuracy of James’ assessment.
“Well, we’re not running the stuff we did last year with the mix of plays,” the coach said. “Our guys are feeling comfortable with what we’re running. We’re going to get better at that. It’s a style most of those guys like to play. It makes it easier for them. Even in this system, there’s a lot of teaching we have to do. We have to continue to learn the little things that will make it easier.”
Entering play Tuesday, the Knicks (7-6) ranked 11th in offensive rating. Last season, New York ranked 19th in the category. Early in the 2016-17 season, Hornacek was given more freedom to run his offense. But later in the season, the club began to run triangle sets more frequently.
This season, the Knicks (like all other NBA teams) continue to have aspects of the triangle in their offense. But players have said that the offense this season is almost entirely different from last season.
“We’re not running the triangle,” one player told ESPN earlier this month.
The Knicks have exceeded expectations early this season thanks in part to strong play from Porzingis, particularly on the offensive end. The third-year forward is averaging 29.5 points per game — the third-highest total in the NBA. The club started last season 16-14 only to fall apart in subsequent weeks. Porzingis said on Tuesday that he feels a different “vibe” around this season’s team and believes it is better equipped for long-term success.
“I feel like we just have the fundamentals as a team,” Porzingis told Kay, adding that he feels New York can make the playoffs this season. “First of all, we play defense. And just by playing defense every night — even if the offense is not great you’re still going to be competitive and you’re still going to be in a lot of those games.
“We’re together as a team,” he added. “And I believe we have the fundamentals offensively and defensively to keep going.”