GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Head coach Jeff Hornacek challenged everyone on the roster -- coaches and players -- to improve their approach on defense a day after the New York Knicks turned in a forgettable performance against the Orlando Magic.
Hornacek wants his players to give a sustained effort and wants his coaches, including himself, to put those players in position to succeed.
“If we’re asking a certain guy to pick up at half court, we have to know, is he capable of doing that?” Hornacek said Tuesday. “We might have three guys on the team or four guys that can do that, and the rest of them might not be able to. So we’ve got to put them in those positions that they’re capable of [handling]. We’ve got to figure out how as a team, what we’re going to do that lends to everybody’s capabilities.”
Hornacek dialed back his criticism of a night earlier when he wondered whether the Knicks have the talent to defend adequately.
“I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily that they [can’t] play defense -- we have to find the right way to have them play defense,” he said. “I think these guys really are trying, but defense is tough. It’s an all-out running into guys, hustling, not stopping. It’s a lot harder than offense. So the effort they are giving is, I think, is good, but we got to get it to be great.”
The Knicks entered play Tuesday with the sixth-worst defense in the NBA. They’ve allowed an average of 113 points during their current five-game losing streak.
Hornacek said he isn’t considering changing Kurt Rambis’ role as defensive assistant at the moment (putting the blame solely on Rambis is silly; it’s on everyone, from Joakim Noah to Carmelo Anthony to team president Phil Jackson).
Hornacek also made it seem as if there are no imminent lineup changes.
“We’re always taking a look at things," he said. "But we’ve got some dynamic offensive players out there, and we’ve got some guys that are strictly defense to help us out. We just all have to get better.”
There could, however, be some roster changes ahead. The trade deadline is less than two months away, and the Knicks, like every other team in the NBA, are looking at their options. It doesn’t seem as if any move is imminent, but some members of the Knicks' front office have labeled Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker as a potential trade target, league sources told ESPN.com.
The club is in need of tough defenders, and Tucker has earned a reputation as a strong defender over his five-year career. This season, he ranks 22nd among 80 qualified small forwards in ESPN’s defensive RPM. That might not seem like an elite measurement, but Tucker would certainly seem to be an upgrade for a Knicks club in need of one.
The question in any Knicks trade, of course, is what the club is giving up. The Knicks have several attractive young players, such as Willy Hernangomez, Kyle O’Quinn and Mindaugas Kuzminskas. They also have draft picks, but Jackson and the Knicks' front office informed teams last season that they weren’t going to part with future first-round picks.
Porzingis hopes to play vs. Milwaukee: Kristaps Porzingis said that he hopes to return to the court Wednesday after sitting out Monday’s loss to Orlando because of a sore left Achillies. He will test the injury during shootaround Wednesday after sitting out of practice Tuesday. Hornacek said Porzingis “might be doubtful” for the game against the Bucks. Porzingis will push to play, particularly because the Knicks have lost eight of 10.
"[Wednesday is] not going to be an easy game for us," Porzingis said, "and just to get back on the right track, I want to be out there with the guys helping, and so hopefully I can be back [Wednesday].”