NEW YORK — The New York Knicks might be about to get back the services of one of their prized possessions on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in a matchup with the suddenly spirited Memphis Grizzlies.
However, they got some disappointing news on one of their other top players.
The team announced on Tuesday that star power forward Kristaps Porzingis was probable to return on Wednesday after missing two-plus games with a sprained ankle sustained Nov. 29 in a 115-86 win over the Miami Heat.
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Porzingis, New York’s leading scorer, has faced myriad back and elbow problems this season, but the Knicks feared the worst after he crumpled to the ground in a heap after colliding with Miami’s Justise Winslow while chasing a loose ball.
His return would be a coup for a team also missing its second-leading scorer, shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who remains out with a stress injury in his left leg. Hardaway sat out the past two games, and he will be sidelined at least two weeks.
Dr. Wellington Hsu, a Northwestern University professor of orthopedic surgery, told the New York Post’s Marc Berman that injuries like this could sidelined an athlete anywhere from a couple of games to a couple of months.
“Tim was not only a scorer for us, he helped activity, drove to the basket,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We’re hoping it’s not too long.”
The return of Porzingis would be crucial against a Memphis team coming off its first win in three weeks, a 95-92 victory over the visiting Timberwolves on Monday. The Grizzlies (8-15) had lost 11 straight before beating Minnesota, a sour stretch that followed a 7-4 start and prompted the firing of former head coach David Fizdale.
Memphis might be close to turning the corner with the recently inspired play of Marc Gasol. The three-time All-Star had been in a scoring slump for more than two weeks before scoring more than 20 in back-to-back games: 27 in a narrow loss at Cleveland and then 21 in the win over Minnesota.
Gasol was inspired by his team’s effort in recent games.
“For the last three games (before the Monday victory over the Timberwolves), let’s say the last 16 quarters including this one, we played really good for 14 quarters effort-wise,” Gasol said. “We really had that mindset of the effort that has to be there. That has got to be the consistent thing.”
With Porzingis back in the fold to go along with the recently returned Enes Kanter, who missed three straight games with a back injury, New York’s frontcourt may be re-solidified. With Hardaway shelved, however, the Knicks (11-12) have been forced to turn to rookie second-round pick Damyean Dotson, and the results have not been good.
Dotson had just two points in the team’s 105-100 home loss to Orlando on Sunday and nine points in a 115-97 loss at Indiana on Monday.
Hardaway’s absence has been glaring. Before a mini-slump just before his injury was announced, when he averaged 13 points in three games, Hardaway had scored more than 20 points in four of his previous six games, including a season-high 38 against Toronto on Nov. 22.
“He’s a tough kid,” Hornacek said. “He had ankle sprains and didn’t miss practice. He’d play through those things. It’s a good attribute to have in a guy. This could be a wear and tear.”