GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Knicks fans no longer are crying, and Knicks players no longer are scratching their heads.
A little more than two months into his rookie season, 7-3 Kristaps Porzingis has won over some of his harshest critics and firmest skeptics. Want proof? On Sunday night, before his dominating 15-point, five-block performance against the Bucks, Porzingis met with the boy who became a symbol of Knicks fans’ frustrations when he posted a crying selfie after the Knicks drafted the little-known Latvian last June.
After Porzingis’ brother recognized the 10-year-old at a Knicks game, Kristaps asked him to bring the youngster over and introduce him if he ever spotted him again. It happened Sunday night, and the fan — identified only as Jordan of Manhattan — tweeted a new smiling selfie while wearing a Porzingis jersey.
“Yeah, it was funny,” Porzingis said after practice Monday. “We wanted to make that happen and take a picture with him. People on Twitter would go crazy for sure.”
Porzingis, who is averaging 13.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks heading into Tuesday night’s game against Boston, has won over more than just Knicks fans.
Carmelo Anthony recalled his initial feelings of bewilderment when the Knicks chose Porzingis with the fourth overall pick. Anthony said neither he nor most NBA players knew much about the leagues in which Porzingis had been playing or his talent level.
“It was out of our realm of knowledge,” Anthony said. “Nobody knew what they were getting into. It was a matter of trusting we made the right decision in the draft . . . I think I had one friend from Latvia.”
Anthony said any worries quickly were dispelled when he saw Porzingis’ athleticism and competitiveness.
“It was way before training camp when you see the upside and what can be,” Anthony said. “We all had to get on board with that and almost embrace that, and embrace him as being one of us right away, being acclimated to the game right away.
“I’m very happy for him. A lot of people in his situation come over here and really do take a long time to get acclimated. I think that’s what people were going off of when we made that pick. Nobody really knows the history of the guys coming over from Europe to our league. It does take a while to get acclimated. Maybe not so much to the game but just the culture of the NBA and what it takes and the grind.”
Porzingis seems to be acclimating just fine as the Knicks (19-20), who have won four of their last five, head into the game against Boston (19-18). And maybe the one person who’s not surprised is coach Derek Fisher.
“Surprised? No,” Fisher said. “He does make plays on both ends of the floor. But I think he’s shown before he’s extremely competitive. That’s the part that’s easy to underestimate. When you look at him, you don’t necessarily see a tough guy. But he’s definitely competitive and he tries to play as hard as he can . . . He’s doing a good job of fighting through the ups and downs that come with this league.”