By Ben Horney
Kristaps Porzingis had just completed a monster slam dunk over one of the best defenders in the NBA when the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee — a ligament so important that its middle word is almost the word “crucial” — decided it had been in one single piece for too long.
As Porzingis’ knee buckled and his ACL tore, a New York Knicks season that started with such promise suddenly turned dark. In an instant, everything changed. The future, which had been now, is now the future again.
Less than 24 hours after Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks probably fouled Porzingis, failed to block his dunk and then didn’t give him enough space to properly land, the Knicks decided to honor a trade request from center Willy Hernangomez that was really just a public cry for playing time. In return for Hernangomez, who is Porzingis’ best friend and was named to the All-Rookie First Team last season, the Knicks received two future second round draft picks and Johnny O’Bryant, whose name is admittedly cool but whose game doesn’t matter because the Knicks instantly waived him.
Do you hear that sound? It’s the sound of a tank engine revving in preparation for a long ride to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. The tank is officially on, unless the Knicks somehow screw that up, which unfortunately seems like a realistic scenario.
Wallowing in despair is something that Knicks fans have been conditioned to do quite well over the last two decades, and it’s okay to wallow for awhile in the aftermath of a superstar succumbing to such a devastating knee injury. The rest of the season now becomes a showcase for the likes of Frank Ntilikina and Tim Hardaway Jr., the only two players on the roster who seem guaranteed to be here when Porzingis returns sometime next year.
As for Porzingis himself, today represents the beginning of a lengthy road to recovery that will be filled with squats, stretches and ice packs galore. In the hours and days after his knee is surgically repaired, it will be difficult for Porzingis and Knicks fans to imagine him ever again flying up and down the court the way he had been this season, but then again, he is a Unicorn.
Unfortunately, Unicorns have ligaments too.