Beating the Philadelphia 76ers? That’s nothing to brag about, not even for the New York Knicks. But drafting Kristaps Porzingis and seeing him flourish during his rookie season? That’s certainly something to be proud of for anyone who had something to do with that decision.
Porzingis led the Knicks with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks, once again showing his wide variety of range, shots and fantastic shot blocking skills in a 99-87 win over the worst team in the NBA, ending their one-game winning streak which the Sixers were hoping would help them turn a corner. It didn’t hurt that Jahlil Okafor wasn’t playing, ruining another opportunity to see two lottery picks going at each other, offering an opportunity for comparisons.
Brett Brown complimented Porzingis at the end of the game, comparing him to Dirk Nowitzki and Toni Kukoc. The 20-year old Latvian was taken fourth overall in the draft, one pick behind Okafor, to a loud chorus of boos from Knicks fans, who thought that going for a project-like player from Europe was the wrong choice. Porzingis worked hard at adding some muscle to his body while impressing in the Summer League, and seems to be more than comfortable with the NBA experience.
It’s just the first portion of what is a long season and rookies, especially from Europe not used to the amount of games, often hit a rookie wall at some point. But for now, Porzingis, averaging 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while shooting a decent 43.2% from the field (considering he is a rookie), seems to have been a bingo kind of pick for Phil Jackson, who has gotten a lot of criticism for his initial rebuilding efforts in New York, but has a reason or two to smile about when seeing how much the team has improved through the first 19 games of the season compared to a year ago, both in ability and its approach.