The Knicks lost to the Mavericks Monday night, 104-97, but it wasn’t because of their ascendent rookie’s game. Kristaps Porzingis — or Three Six Latvia — scored 28 points on an ultra methodical 13-of-18 shooting from the field. He did most of his damage, 12 points, in the fourth quarter when the Knicks were trailing big. But KP net a couple bit three-pointers to cut their deficit to four before eventually losing.
His counterpart on Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki, has become the de facto comparison people use to explain how Porzingis has taken the NBA by storm.
If we had our druthers, everyone would hold off on such lofty correlations so early in the season, but Dirk actually thinks the comparison is unfair to him. That’s because he says the Latvian sensation is “way better” than the stout German was at the same 20 years old.
“It’s more than fair,” Nowitzki told ESPN’s Ian Begley after the game. “He’s probably way ahead of the curve. When I was 20, I was scared to death out there. … He’s almost averaging a double-double, so he’s way better than I was at 20. So, the comparison’s probably unfair to me.”
Dirk Nowitzki is the greatest European import in NBA history. He’s an MVP, a Finals MVP, an NBA champion, a 13-time All-Star, a four-time All-NBA First Team selection and really the first player to prove to NBA audiences a 7-footer could be a threat 25 feet from the hoop.
Kristaps Porzingis is having a terrific rookie year, and we’re pretty sure he’ll keep moving up our Rookie Rankings the next time we publish our Award Watch (he was No. 2 in our latest rankings, trailing only Karl-Anthony Towns).
And it’s the little things he’s doing well that make us think he’s got a long, possibly historic career ahead of him. Look at how he catches this errant Arron Afflalo pass with his left hand before rising up in one fluid motion for an above-the-break three-pointer.
That’s so hard to do, and it’s compounded by that insane height.
But, KP, Latviathan, ‘Stapes Raps, or whatever nickname you’ve elected to use today is not Dirk Nowitzki. While the amiable German paid Porzingis the highest compliment he could by saying the 20-year-old comparison is probably unfair to Nowitzki, he fails to mention all the hard work he did after that rookie campaign filled with bashful culture shock and capitulation. Because that’s the really hard part.
Dirk is an all-time player now because of all the late-night shooting sessions, the time in the weight room to add the necessary girth to bang with the big bodies in the paint, and the film study. By all accounts, Porzingis is the same way, and he certainly seemed as such when we got to spend some time with him this past summer.
Perhaps the best part about Porizingis’ personality, and the one that’s now pushing us past our skepticism, is his own distrust of the hype. His comments when told of Dirk’s compliment, perfectly prove the point:
“Obviously, he’s showing some respect to me. That shows me that maybe I have the potential to one day be as great as he is,” Porzingis said. “I’ve got to keep working, and hopefully I can be as good as he thinks I can be.”
Let’s hold off on crowning Porzingis as Dirk’s heir apparent until we’re at least in the new year. KP certainly will be.