Commissioner Adam Silver hadn’t even finished announcing the Knicks’ pick when the booing started.
“With the fourth pick in the 2015 NBA draft, the New York Knicks select Kristaps—-”
The boos from the Knicks faithful rained down on the young Latvian from all corners of the Barclays Center.
Welcome to New York, kid.
“A lot of fans weren’t happy they drafted me, but I have to do everything that’s in my hands to turn those booing fans into clapping fans,” said Porzingis of his reception, one that’s become typical of the Knicks’ draft choices in recent memory. “There’s nothing can do. I was happy about it [being drafted]. I want to be a part of this organization, and I know the fans are a little harsh sometimes, but that’s how it is here in New York, and I’m ready for it.”
He’d better be. Porzingis may be the great unknown of this year’s draft, but the Knicks also believe he has the greatest upside of any player in the draft and took a chance on the 19 year old.
“We thought the risk-rewards were the greatest with this guy perhaps in the whole lottery,” Knicks’ president Phil Jackson said.
Porzingis will join a roster that is undergoing some changes – especially after Tim Hardaway Jr. was jettisoned for the rights to Jerian Grant later in the night – from the one that went a franchise worst 17-65 last season, and given his high selection, the starved fan base will demand instant productivity. Jackson, however, is thinking long-term. Porzingis will need time to adjust, and develop a palette for the American game – and the Triangle offense. He says that, eventually, he will become a franchise-type player for the Knicks.
“I think I have enough talent to be that special player, and help the franchise get better results,” said Porzingis. “I want to be that guy, and I want to be a part of this special organization. I’m looking forward to it.”
Despite the patience the organization, and it’s fans, will need to have with Porzingis, one positive is the kid genuinely wants to be here. He acknowledged the notion that American’s have of the ‘soft’ European, but his biggest on-court hurdle may be learning the vaunted Triangle, and meshing his game with Knicks’ star Carmelo Anthony.
“I think for me, it won’t be a problem to adjust to that offense. I think it’s a very good offense. You just move a lot, and there’s always spacing, so I’m looking forward learning that,” said the fourth pick. “Carmelo is a great player. Whatever theme, whatever Carmelo wants me to do, I will do that out on the court just to prove that I’m worthy enough to be on the court with him.
“We will have time to practice and hopefully I will be able to fit in with Carmelo.”
There initially was a belief that Jackson would draft Porzingis with the likelihood of later trading him to another team for multiple assets, but late last night at the team’s practice facility, Jackson indicated that the team drafted Porzingis to keep him.
“I don’t know about patience. I think the biggest thing about it is training an athlete and making him athletically ready to play the game,” Jackson said. “He’s still a growing young man, but his upside is terrific. . . . We need something athletic and to make a real difference in the way we play. And this young man is an eye-opening athlete and player, and that’s something we have to go with.”
There’s still work to be done to surround Anthony with enough talent to make the team competitive next season – the second year of a 5-year, $124 million deal signed by Melo last off-season – but they know that at the very least, Porzingis is ready for the challenge that lays ahead.
“For me to be a part of this organisation, I just can’t wait to let the season start and just get to work.”
Feature image via: Getty Images