No cold feet for Porzingis

Knicks rookie is hot against Nets on his way to post 10th double-double in first 20 games

Kristaps Porzingis (No. 6) has no hesitation going for a dunk even as Brooklyn Nets' Brook Lopez tries to block his effort.
Kristaps Porzingis (No. 6) has no hesitation going for a dunk even as Brooklyn Nets' Brook Lopez tries to block his effort.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Forty years ago, Lionel Hollins was a rookie with the Portland Trail Blazers, a highly touted point guard picked sixth in the 1975 draft.

In his first road game of his professional career, he found himself in a nerve-wracking position, standing on the court at Madison Square Garden between Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe of the New York Knicks.

"My knees were shaking, and they're patting me on the butt, and then you got to go out and compete," said Hollins, now coach of the Brooklyn Nets who lost 91-108 to the Knicks in the National Basketball Association on Friday.

"I mean, I had Frazier's picture over my bed in my dorm room but now I'm in the NBA. It's over. There's no more idolisation."

His story felt particularly resonant on Friday because much of the talk around the arena centred on Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks' rookie big man, who has been shedding whatever vestiges of hesitance he might have at an astonishing rate.

Looking poised, Porzingis, 20, added another notable performance to his brief resume.

He finished the game with 19 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes while shooting three for four from behind the arc.

It was Porzingis' 10th double-double of the season, and he became only the second Knicks rookie to record 10 double-doubles in his first 20 games.

Legendary centre Willis Reed was the first.

The Nets defence kept losing track of Porzingis, letting him slip from one spot to another on the offensive end.

"I don't know how they missed him; he's (2.21m) tall," said Carmelo Anthony who scored a game-high 28 points.

"He's a guy who's still trying to find his way, still trying to figure this game out. He's getting better, game in and game out."

In the team's first 19 games, Porzingis averaged 13.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.89 blocked shots.

"My individual success is always secondary," he said.

"The first is the team. If we can win, I'm happy."

In ways big and small, he has continued to invigorate the organisation. Before the game, coach Derek Fisher talked about how his presence was helping relieve some pressure for other players on the team, namely Anthony.

Fisher was happy with how his team moved the ball and the fact that they had 25 assists.

"That's a good number to see," he said of the assist total.

Anthony remains the team's focal point and leader.

Still, he has felt the spotlight shift from him ever so slightly, both on and off the court, as Porzingis has captured the attention of fans and opponents alike.

"He can have all of it," Anthony said of the crowd's attention, laughing. "I'll give it to him."

Porzingis has come a long way since Knicks fans booed when New York announced their selection of a teenaged foreign import from Latvia with the fourth pick of the NBA Draft last June.

On Friday, he made plays that got the Madison Square Garden crowd chattering excitedly.

He opened the second half with a thunderous dunk after carving a semi-circle route around the entire Nets defence.

On the next possession for the Knicks (10-10), he made a tough jumper from the right corner as the shot clock was winding down.

The Nets (5-14) imploded early.

They trailed 21-42 after one quarter and never got close.

Joe Johnson was ejected early in the fourth quarter for elbowing Jose Calderon.

Centre Brook Lopez led the team with 21 points.

"Well, that was a nightmare," Hollins said of the result.

"I guess everybody can quit talking about rivalries."

The recollections were nicer before the game, even as Hollins recalled that Monroe had torched him for 28 points in that game 40 years ago.

Monroe, Hollins said, told reporters after the game that the rookie would be fine.

And Hollins, indeed, went on to make the all-rookie first team in that season.

Porzingis seems assured of at least that much.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 06, 2015, with the headline 'NO COLD FEET FOR PORZINGIS'. Print Edition | Subscribe