GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Kristaps Porzingis was roundly booed by Knicks fans the last time his name was announced in a New York arena.
The 7-3 rookie and possible future face of the franchise will make his Madison Square Garden debut Wednesday night. Porzingis expects a much different reaction when he's introduced.
"Yeah, probably now the fans know me a little better," Porzingis said after Tuesday's practice. "Now I've just got to prove that I can play on the court, not just the talking. So tomorrow's the first day, the first step. I've got to play as hard as I can and try to win and do good for the team."
Porzingis was a relative unknown when the Knicks took the Latvian big man with the No. 4 pick in the draft held at the Barclays Center. But the fans seemingly have grown to like Porzingis after hearing all the things Knicks executives and coaches have said about him, and seeing him play in summer league.
He said fans recognize him on the street and shout words of encouragement to him.
"[They say], 'KP, you'd better be healthy and bring us a championship,' " Porzingis said. "Stuff like that. I love the fans. They're very passionate about basketball. It's very nice that they recognize me and say good things to me on the street."
Porzingis hasn't shot in the Garden or visited the Knicks' locker room yet. That will change Wednesday night when the Knicks open the preseason against the Brazilian team Bauru.
"I'm not nervous," Porzingis said. "I'm excited. This is a dream come true."
It's unclear whether Porzingis will be introduced as a starter, but Derek Fisher seems to be leaning toward having him with the first unit.
The definite starters, according to Fisher, are Jose Calderon, Carmelo Anthony and Robin Lopez. Fisher said he's still deciding whether to start Porzingis at power forward. But he talked extensively about the matchup troubles it would cause teams to have the 7-foot Lopez and Porzingis up front together.
"When we have that kind of size on the floor hopefully we can punish teams on the interior offensively and defensively," Fisher said. "We'll still have good floor spacing because of Kristaps' ability to shoot the ball.
"We have a big team. I think it's important for us to take advantage of that when we can."
Shooting guard Arron Afflalo remains sidelined with a strained left hamstring. Fisher's option at shooting guard are veteran Sasha Vujacic, who has been impressive during camp, second-year guard Langston Galloway and rookie Jerian Grant.
Up front, it would make sense for Fisher to start Porzingis to truly begin developing him, which is a big part of this season's plan.
"Kris we obviously drafted really high and nothing can teach you better than experience," Fisher said.
The real experience will start Friday when the Knicks face the Wizards. It will be Porzingis' first game against NBA players. Battling with physical guys in practice such as Lopez, Kyle O'Quinn and Kevin Seraphin should help prepare Porzingis for that.
But Porzingis, 20, has earned nothing but rave reviews from the Knicks.
Associate head coach Kurt Rambis said Porzingis could eventually become a combination of Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki. Fisher praised Porzingis' game and the benefits of him and Lopez playing together.
"Hopefully defending and rebounding, and the ability to protect the rim," Fisher said. "Kris is a versatile offensive player so there's a lot of things we can do with him on the floor. [It's] not necessarily a traditional big lineup.
"He plays like a big in some respects but he's also a stretch [power forward] in some respects. That's the attraction to why we drafted him as well as he likes defending and changing shots. Robin's a really good passer from the high post, a great rim protector and a great offensive rebounder."