The Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis will not play again until at least mid-February, when he is expected to undergo a medical re-evaluation of his surgically repaired knee, the team’s president, Steve Mills, said on Friday.
It remains unclear whether Porzingis, one of the N.B.A.’s most exciting young players, will be able to return at all this season, Mills said. When he is evaluated in February, it will be a year since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
“We’d love to see him play,” Mills said, “but we also acknowledge that he is a really, really important part of the long-term future of this franchise, and the one thing we’re not going to do is take any real risk.”
Porzingis, 23, passed recent benchmark tests for strength, quickness and lateral agility, Mills said, and he has also been working out one on one with a Knicks assistant coach for 45 minutes at team practices.
“We’re really excited and happy with the progress K. P. is making,” Mills said.
Porzingis has also participated in shoot-arounds before home games and in film sessions but does not travel with the team.
“It was just good to see him out there,” Mills said about Thursday’s practice. “He was doing three-quarter-court drills with some speed and pull-up 3s and a couple of dunks.”
Heading into Friday night’s game against Atlanta, the Knicks were 9-24, the fifth-worst record in the N.B.A.
If the losing continues, the Knicks’ chances of landing a possible top pick like Duke’s Zion Williamson increase. Mills watched Duke beat Texas Tech at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
The Knicks also hope to land a big free agent such as Kevin Durant in the off-season. Would a star player be more inclined to sign with the Knicks if he saw Porzingis back on the court playing at his best?
“The most important thing for us is to have Kristaps on the court when he feels comfortable being on the court and we feel comfortable that he should be out there,” Mills said. “That’s more important than any timetable this season.”