Sunday, November 22, 2015

Kristaps Porzingis

"A very tall flying object wrecked Houston on Saturday night," wrote New York Post sportswriter Marc Berman in today's paper.

The tall object was the New York Knicks' new forward, Kristaps Porzingis, a gangly 20-year-old who hails from Latvia.  Last night he scored 24 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked seven shots.

More from Berman:

     "The Knicks’ 7-foot-3 rookie phenom, Kristaps Porzingis, in an even more 
     spectacular outing than Tuesday’s, inflicted major damage to the struggling 
     Rockets in leading the Knicks every which way in a 107-102 victory at Toyota 
     Center for their fourth straight win and an 8-6 record."  

Before last night, the Knicks had lost their last 11 games against the Rockets, and they had not won a game in Houston since 2004. 

Here are some highlights of Porzingis' game last night, including a Kareem-like left-handed skyhook.

The New York Knicks

Life has been difficult for Knicks fans for many years now.  The team owner, James L. Dolan, is a hard guy to like, and a string of coaches has struggled for years to convince the players that they should work together as a team.   

When Porzingis was chosen No. 4 in the draft this year, team fans were deeply apprehensive.  Knicks president Phil Jackson (a former championship coach whose NY job description is not entirely clear) worried aloud in August about whether Porzingis' narrow frame wasn't too spindly for the rough-and-tumble of a long basketball season.  

In short, expectations were modest.  

Porzingis of course was booed by Knicks fans in his first few court appearances -- the usual Empire State howdy.  New Yorkers are tough on their athletic teams.  

Now the big forward is the toast of the town.  ESPN calls him "the hottest young big man in New York since Patrick Ewing."  Ewing retired in 2002.

Porzingis' rookie performance has been compared already with that of Shaquille O'Neal in his rookie season, 1992-93.  High praise indeed.

At the moment, the Knicks are 8-6.  Before the season began, fans were resigned to another slow start; the last time they were over .500 at this point in the season was in 2012. Knicks fans know that life is hard and, since the early 1970s, full of disappointments on the basketball court.

This may be a turning point in the Knicks' fortunes.  Or it may not.  

Knicks' hopes have been dashed before.


In February 2012, a Knicks backup guard, Jeremy Lin, came off the bench to lead the team to string of victories. The Knicks had an 11-13 record before his first game, and then went 7-0 after he was put in the starting lineup.  In one game alone, on February 10, he scored 38 points.

Fans were enchanted, in part by Lin's unlikely story.  He was short (6'3"), Chinese-American and an evangelical Christian.  He had been undrafted for college (Harvard in his case) or by the NBA.  On at least two occasions, when he reported to arenas for games, security guards refused to believe he was actually a professional basketball player.

His novelty charmed many, but his Knicks career was brief.  A new coach arrived with a different strategy, and Lin suffered a meniscus tear, after which the unloved owner Dolan refused to extend his contract.  He has since played in Houston and Los Angeles, and is now a guard with the Charlotte Hornets.  

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