The playoffs are a fantasy — something for other teams to do — for a fourth straight Knicks season. Expectations died long ago. Now the starting center who was signed for four years and began the season fighting injury will end it serving a suspension.
Still, coach Jeff Hornacek found a positive amid the Joakim Noah suspension, the latest gut-punch to the Knicks season. That positive is rookie center Willy Hernangomez.
“That’s the bright spot,” Hornacek said following Tuesday’s non-contact practice in Tarrytown.
“When someone gets hurt, some other guys get chances. Willy probably this year has played a lot more minutes than anyone anticipated him playing. He’s made the most of it.”
Hernangomez, 22, in 64 games has averaged 7.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 17.6 minutes while shooting 54.5 percent. In 12 games in March, the 6-foot-11, 240-pounder, who was stashed in Europe for a year after the 2015 draft, has averaged 11.5 points and 9.3 rebounds, shooting 54.7 percent.
“He’s shown he can play. He’s shown he’s not afraid of people. He’s just going to get better and better,” Hornacek said. “The first time he played a team to the second time he played a team and now the third and fourth time, he’s a smart player. That’s been a bright spot through Jo’s injuries that he’s been able to step up and contribute like he has.”
As part of their 70th anniversary season, the Knicks on Wednesday will honor their 1983-84 Hubie Brown-coached team that went 47-35, finished fifth in the East then upended the Pistons in the first round of the playoffs then lost to the eventual champ Celtics.
Brown will be on hand along with Hall of Famer Bernard King plus Bill Cartwright, Rory Sparrow and Darrell Walker.
Hornacek has noted that this last run of games is a good chance to play the younger guys extended minutes to get a gauge on next season, although he stayed with his vets Monday in the win over Detroit because, “We don’t…