The season is only four games old, and the Knicks have broken even so far in the standings, but there’s a considerable buzz around the facilities and within the fanbase, and that’s essentially owed to one guy – and for once, it’s not Carmelo Anthony.
Kristaps Porzingis has been a very pleasant surprise for the Knicks – and particularly for the team’s followers who booed the fourth-overall pick. But as of right now, the Latvian rookie is proving the doubters wrong, as he’s off to a very solid start.
Sure, his early success is a small sample size, but Porzingis’s intensity has been a breath of fresh air for a Knicks squad that suffered through lethargy and apathy during last season’s 17-win campaign. His intensity was on display during Monday night’s affair against the San Antonio Spurs as henotched his first-career double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds. The rookie also added two blocks and had the play of the game when he crammed home a tip-dunk over LaMarcus Aldridge that shook the Garden. Yes, the Knicks fell short, but to have that kind of personal success is something that Porzingis can build upon and quite possibly help lift the Knicks into the bottom-rung of the playoff race.
Porzingis said he was “fired up” to go against the likes of Aldridge and the future Hall of Fame trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, and it showed. So much so, that even the usually stoic Duncan gave props, calling Porzingis “impressive.”
Knicks head coach Derek Fisher has been pleased with the work ethic and development of his prized rookie, noting the brutal 10-game stretch to open the season – continuing with Wednesday night’s showdown with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers -- can only help Porzingis improve and strengthen his resolve even more.
“I think for[Porzingis], to play against the type of teams that we are playing against to start the season is gonna force him to raise up to another level – and if not, you can get embarrassed,” Fisher said.“But he’s competing hard every night. And I thought that was on display. Him, all the guys, are competing and fighting hard … Kris is definitely showing a lot of heart and fight and grit. And we need that.”
The fight may have to be delayed for a few games, as Porzingis is dealing with a strained neck that he suffered in the third quarter of Monday’s game when Anthony was cut from under in mid-air and landed on the rookie’s head, as Porzingis was scrambling for a loose ball. X-rays on Porzingis’s neck were negative, as the Knicks have deemed it a soft tissue injury. He’ll continue to be evaluated.
Porzingis didn’t seem too worried, though, noting it’s just “stiffness” in his neck and that “it’s nothing serious.
“For now I think I’m good for tomorrow. If I get feeling better tomorrow, I’ll be able to go for sure,” said Porzingis. “My long, flexible neck is fine.”
Anthony, who didn’t even know it was Porzingis that he landed on, said the rookie “seems OK,” and expressed the same logic he’s used when asked about the progress and return of Arron Afflalo, who’ll likely be out a couple of weeks due to a hamstring malady. Anthony noted there shouldn’t be any rush back to the lineup for Porzingis until he’s fully ready.
Regardless of who’s playing tomorrow, Anthony said he likes the resolve this team has built already and feels they can weather the early storm.
“I believe that we’re going to be OK," Anthony said. “We’re only four games into the season, and we’ve had some guys dealing with nagging injuries, and we still haven’t shot our best yet, but we’ve been in both losses. … We’re right there. It’s just a matter of us putting it together for a whole game and being consistent with that.”
-Afflalo practiced today, but the Knicks said he won't play tomorrow.