Attention-loving Porzingis made for New York City

VIDEO: First impressions of Kristaps Porzingis

LAS VEGAS — Not everything appears at it seems in this town, where fortunes can come and go in a flash and hopes can rise like the triple-digit temperatures. It’s a weird place for Kristaps Porzingis to begin selling himself as the future of the Knicks, yet he’s doing just that.

Let’s start with the one intangible that weighs heavily: Porzingis laughs easily and dismisses criticism with a disarming smile. Good. That skill will come in handy over the next year or so. In that sense, the 7-3 center from Latvia is made for the harsh city, a tabloid-fueled place that is likely to fall in love with the rookie, from a personality standpoint, even if the 19-year-old gets off to an understandably slow start.

“He handles himself well,” said coach Derek Fisher. “This kid won’t let anything get to him.”

We’re moving a bit to fast here, but if Porzingis ever becomes an All-Star someday, he will own New York more than Carmelo Anthony. A smart, funny foreigner with J. Crew looks who loves the city with all of its benefits and flaws? When’s the last time anyone could say that about a Knick?

When asked how he handled his nerves in his debut, Porzingis said quickly: “I told myself to chill out.”

His English is amazingly sharp and he carries himself well. Basically, he gets it, even at a very young age. of course, there’s still the big question: Can he play?

Well, that won’t be known in summer league, which should be taken for what it’s worth. Still, after four days in Vegas, he hasn’t backed down. He’s built like a Twizzler but isn’t afraid to mix it up. He goes in traffic with the ball and also after the ball for rebounds. He has challenged players at the rim and is showing a knack for blocking shots. Again, Summer League is all about learning if the player has the basics to survive in the NBA, and Porzingis is showing that.

The main drawback for Porzingis is his lack of strength. He’ll get easily boxed out for rebounds when the real games begin. And his dribble game is merely adequate.

The Knicks were smitten by his height, his athletic ability and his jumper, and so far have no reason to be disappointed. Porzingis has the shooting range to stretch defenses. He can be very useful in the pick-and-pop (assuming his body can withstand the pick part) and can be dangerous behind the 3-point line. And he gets to the free-throw line. Again, this is Summer League, and Porzingis is a work in progress. but the more you watch, the more you get the feeling that Phil Jackson didn’t draft the next Andrea Bargnani.

“He’s really interesting to watch and his growth is going to be interesting to see,” said Jackson. “It looks like he can hold his own out there. I think he’s going to find a comfort zone.”

OK, here’s the issue: Should Jackson have taken someone else, say Emmanual Mudiay, at No. 4? Willie Cauley-Stein? Both are also producing in Vegas and would’ve filled a need for the Knicks, who need everything.

Well, point guards aren’t too hard to find, so it’s understandable why Jackson decided to gamble on a 7-3 shooter instead of Mudiay (besides, Jackson took Notre Dame point guard Jerian Grant later in the first round). Cauley-Stein, meanwhile, is every bit the project as Porzingis, although more offensively-challenged.

For the time being, the Knicks are looking rather smart and Porzingis is looking rather comfortable. For a player who didn’t get the shine of the NCAA tournament, he’s pretty popular in Vegas, and this reception will be nothing compared to what awaits in New York.

“I love the attention,” he said.

See? He fits.



  1. harriethehawk says:

    The Knickerbonkers are counting on this guy to get them to the Promised land. lol

  2. pokie says:

    I’m surprised no one has said Rik Smits when comparing the Zinger to other players yet.

  3. Gary says:

    His one are that needs to improve is one that can be easily addressed. Strength! Just don’t let him get out of the gym!!! Even though im not a Knick fan, I would like to see them become a winner. They have the largest market in America, perhaps the world… if they can get it together, sky is limit for the franchise

  4. Hypothesis says:

    As a Knicks fan I’m happily surprised. Just maybe Phil Jackson does know what he’s doing.

  5. Fernando Monteiro says:

    “Well, point guards aren’t too hard to find”

    You tell that to Knicks fans? When was the last time we had a good point guard? Derek Harper? 20 years ago? Yeas! Phil should have picked Mudiay.

  6. ism says:

    easily the most intriguing pick. maybe the unsafest bet among the top 5, but his smooth and silky jumper at that size is still underappreciated…

  7. taekayo says:

    Height, athleticism and a shooting touch is a lethal combination in any league. But his strength needs a lot of work. And there’s also the problem with durability, just imagine that 7’3 frame being carried by non-sturdy knees and ankles. He has to be used right away, as bigs that size usually don’t last long. My worry is just that if he’s an offensive player, how much would he be able to contribute with having Melo the ball-stopper πŸ™‚

  8. The facts says:


  9. Christopher says:

    Knicks did well, Mudiay looks good and so does Cauley, but Grant and Porzingis as a tandem have looked better and the Knicks have both on their roster, ingenious moves by Phil.

  10. vern says:

    I agree he looks like he’ll be okay in the league but he definitely needs to get a little stronger. I’m also impressed with Grant. Grant looks like he should’ve went earlier in the draft. He outplayed Russell yesterday by a big margin.

    • Chris says:

      He is a big guard, combo gurard, agreed some teams overlooked Jerian. Good thing Knicks able to grab him at 19th.