adidas mactelo but Kristaps Porzingis is the future
The sneaker model Kristaps Porzingis wears is called the Crazy Explosive. He recently signed a shoe deal with Adidas, and he now possesses a goal typical of a 21 year old basketball star. “I hope with time, if I’m playing the way Adidas believes I can play, maybe in the future I’ll have my own shoe,” Porzingis said. He claims he has not considered what he would name his signature kicks. “I have no idea,” he said. There is one obvious idea, based on the nickname New York Knicks teammates have bestowed upon him: Unicorn.
In a league brimming with physical outliers, Porzingis still manages to produce awe in coaches and players long accustomed to the freakish. He stands 7 foot 3 but plays like a man a foot shorter, able to shoot buttery jumpers and shake defenders off the dribble. His body gives the impression of a pile of sticks fastened together, but he moves with grace and agility. He grew up in Latvia, but he walks with the swagger of an American city kid.
“We’ve never seen a player like him,” Knicks point guard Derrick Rose said. “I think that’s why his story is unique. He’s 7 3, moving like he’s a small forward. You have players like that, they kind of change the game. You’ve got the (Kevin Durants). KD is a totally different type of player than he is, but he’s 7 feet. This is our first time in the league seeing somebody at 7 3 be so mobile.”
Coming off a 50 loss season, the Knicks have started this year 5 7 and remain a collection of mismatched parts, assembled by stuck in the 90s, 71 year old team president Phil Jackson. The $72 million contract Jackson gave to aging power forward Joakim Noah already seems disastrous, and this week he caused an unnecessary firestorm when, in an ESPN interview, he referred to LeBron James’s agent and business partners as his “posse.”
The one thing Jackson most certainly did not screw up was the fourth overall pick of the 2015 draft, which he used to select Porzingis. The ceiling for Porzingis is difficult to fathom, because how do you project the unprecedented? It may look something like Wednesday night in New York, against the Detroit Pistons. Porzingis scored 35 points, an array of tip dunks, step backs and three 3 pointers. After one alley oop slam over a defender, he snarled and sneered. After a blocked shot, he high fived fans along the sideline while running back down the floor, the ball in play.
“He’s definitely going to be one of the best players in the league very soon,” Washington Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said. “He can score on so many spots on the floor. For a guy that’s 7 3, puts it on the floor, left, right. He has a mid range game, he has a step back, he shoots threes, he gets lobs, he gets offensive rebounds. He’s a great player now and it’s pretty remarkable to see him improve so quickly. Great player. He’s definitely on his way to being an All Star.”
In the interim, Porzingis mixes brilliance with development. Gassed after playing 40 minutes the night before, Porzingis lacked his typical bounce in a loss Thursday night at Verizon Center against the Wizards. He missed nine of his first 15 shots and finished with 16 points, three of which came on a last second three. At times, Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris muscled him in the post on both ends of the court.
“A lot of his shots were short,” Knicks Coach Jeff Hornacek said. “That’s usually a sign. But he’s young. He’s learning how to play in back to back games. It’s tough on a guy who’s 7 3.”
“It’s hard to say,” Porzingis said. “I had that first season and I know what to expect now. It’s just being ready, being more mentally than physically ready. No matter how tired you feel, no matter what is going on, you have to bring it every night. No matter if it’s back to back. I always got to be mentally there and ready to fight.”
Even on a relative off night, Porzingis made several plays that seemed in some way unreal. He snatched four steals, a product of his uncommon length, and grabbed seven rebounds. In the first quarter, he followed a Rose miss with a tip dunk. He caught a pass on the top of the key with Otto Porter, perhaps the Wizards’ best perimeter defender, in his face. Porzingis took two quick dribbles to his left, pulled up at the elbow and swished a jumper. Porter played perfect defense, but it did not matter Porzingis simply shot over him.
“You’re not going to be able to pigeon hole him that, ‘he plays like this guy,’ ” Brooks said. “I think he does a little bit of everybody in the league.”
Even the small moments between plays separate Porzingis. Wednesday night against Detroit, defender Jon Leuer hacked Porzingis as he slammed an alley oop. Because Leuer crashed into him, Porzingis crumpled on the baseline.
“The way that he fell, for a 7 3 guy, you would think he probably would have hurt himself, falling like that,” Rose said. “He got up like he was 6 3 or something like that. Just little things like that. Everything is balanced. You try to balance yourself in certain ways, he’s naturally just got that talent. There’s only one of him.”
When Porzingis hopped up, the Madison Square Garden crowd chanted, “M V P!” Porzingis responded with a brash sneer toward the Knicks bench, where players had flooded the court in delirious salute. Porzingis grew up in Latvia and played basketball for five years in Spain, but somehow his tastes and his outlook hew toward the country where he now lives.
“That’s part of his personality,” Rose said. “He has a sense of humor to him. He’s a kid from overseas, but really, he’s like an American. . And he’s got a lot of swagger.”
Greater fame, and perhaps his own shoe, lie ahead for Porzinigs. He feels the improvement from last season owes to unnoticed factors, like reading the game on defense better and feeling calm when he has a mismatch on offense, not trying to do too much. Teammates continue to harp on him to set stronger screens and contest more shots.