Knicks rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis has taken New York and the NBA world by storm.
Ever since he scored 29 points a week ago Tuesday against Charlotte, he has put up big numbers and become the one to watch.
On Friday night, when the Knicks played the Miami Heat, the Madison Square Garden crowd gave the biggest cheers in the warmups to Porzingis. Every time he touched the ball, the crowd reacted in anticipation of what he would do next. They erupted in cheers when he scored and gasped when he missed. They roared whenever he entered the game, knowing that his presence makes all the difference to the Knicks’ chances.
The 20-year old Latvian forward is averaging 13.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game to lead the Knicks to a fast start and talk of a playoff spot.
Knicks guard Jose Calderon has a unique perspective on Porzingis, as he followed his play last season for Cajasol Seville in Spain.
“I watched a lot of of game, I follow the ACB, so I saw him a lot of times…You never know what a guy’s going to do, like how well he’s going to play. He’s been doing great, he got really good numbers last year, but you never know in this life how successful he could be in this league. This is a different kind of basketball. He’s been doing well, hopefully he can keep doing it,” said Calderon.
Calderon said of what he liked about Porzingis’ game watching him play in Spain, “The talent is there, he can do a lot of things for a 7’3″ guy. He can put the ball on the floor, shooting and rebounding, everything. It’s different styles, so that’s why numbers can get people confused sometimes.”
Porzingis has been talked about so much lately that even NBA veterans like Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh have heard enough.
This was Bosh’s reaction to a question about Porzingis on Friday night: “He’s good. People ask me a lot of questions about him, I mean, it’s a lot of questions, Porzingis, Porzingis, Porzingis. He’s a good player.”
The Heat and the Knicks squared off twice this week, with the first meeting on Monday in Miami before the rematch at The Garden on Friday night.
On Monday night in Miami, Porzingis had a nice game, with 20 points on 7-for-18 from the field and 3-5 on threes, and 14 rebounds in the Knicks’ 95-78 loss.
Miami won again on Friday night, 97-78. Porzingis was held to 11 points (5-11 FG, 0-1 on threes) and eight rebounds in 24 minutes. Foul trouble was the reason he played far less than the 35+ minutes that he logged in the prior three games, as he took three fouls in the first half and finished with five for the game.
Afterwards, Porzingis said of the second half, in which the Knicks were outscored 47-29, “We were not connected. We couldn’t make shots. We weren’t playing with enough energy on defense. They had a really good game and we couldn’t find our rhythm.”
Porzingis said of the early fouls, “It is frustrating. I want to be on the floor and help the team all the time. In some ways, I let my team down. I know there are guys that will step up but I want to be there when my team needs me. I have to be smarter with the fouls.
“Everybody on this team knows that everyone has to contribute. There are a lot of games, someone might not be playing good. Everyone has to step up and play 100 percent. There will be good and bad games, but the most important thing is to keep that intensity and every time you get on the floor, give it your all,” said Porzingis.
Knicks center Robin Lopez said of what Porzingis can learn from playing the Heat twice in a week, “He’s learning things from everything. He picks up things very fast. Knowing the kind of personality he has; he’s a go-getter, he’s gonna take it the right way. I think this is going to be good for him and he’s going to take the right message from it.”
Bosh said to the question of what the difference was for Porzingis on Friday night, “He’s a rookie, how much is he averaging?”
This might have been to show that the Miami Heat, a team used to winning championships and playing in big games, were not focused solely on Porzingis.
A big part of Miami’s win on Friday night was how they shut down Carmelo Anthony, who also had 11 points (4-13 FG, 1-3 on threes), but none after the first quarter.
Anthony said of his play on Friday night, “For me, it’s a matter of trying to pick my spots. Try to know when to go and when not to go. I am not trying to break the offense, but (still) trying to figure out when to go. It is still a fine line.”
On the Heat defense, Anthony said, “I don’t think they made any adjustments. They stayed with their game plan from the beginning. I couldn’t find it in the second half for whatever reason.”
Miami guard Dwyane Wade said of the Heat defense on Anthony, “You have to give Gerald (Green) and Justise (Winslow) a lot of credit. They kept fighting him. He is an unbelievable scorer. You have to understand his tendencies and hope for the best.”
The Knicks have been Anthony’s team since he arrived in 2011, and already people are looking at them now as Porzingis’ team.
When the Knicks used the fourth pick in this past June’s Draft on Porzingis, President Phil Jackson staked his legacy on the little-known Latvian. It was Jackson’s statement on who he thought could have the potential to lead this team into the future.
It was thought when Porzingis was drafted that he would not make an impact until his second or third season. He is definitely ahead of schedule, and that means the Knicks could be ahead on their timetable in terms of getting back to prominence.
For the first time in a while, the Knicks have a team that could be together for awhile, with Porzingis, Langston Galloway, Kyle O’Quinn, Derrick Williams, and Jerian Grant as the nucleus.