Back in June after confetti had just fallen down on the Golden State Warriors, and with baseball season in full swing a franchise defining moment took place for the New York Knicks at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
With the sixth pick in the draft the Knicks drafted Kristaps Prozingis, a Latvian national who played basketball in Spain. In other words the Knicks drafted a guy who didn't play with a top college like Duke or Kentucky, and was a virtual unknown. And if you watched that draft that night you would have thought that Jets fans had invaded the Barclays Center dressed in Knicks blue and orange.
Knicks fans wanted a super star, they didn't want an unknown. As a result the fans vehemently booed Prozingis that night. They followed that up by bashing him at every single turn, calling him a bum and the worst draft pick in NBA history. Many even questioned the competency of Phil Jackson as General Manager of the franchise.
Now Prozingis is proving that Jackson was right to trust the 20-year old. He posted 24 points and 14 boards in a 107-102 thriller in Houston on Saturday. That performance made him only the fifth rookie in the past 20 years to post 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks in the same game. Not only that, but the kid has been a total revelation.
He's averaging 13.5 points per game, and 9.5 rebounds per game. He dropped 29 points on Charlotte last week, and almost beat the Hornets at the buzzer with a three pointer the week before that. Since November 11, Porzingis has shot better than 40 percent from the floor five times in the last six games. The Knicks, by the way are 4-2 in that stretch. They are 8-6 overall -- a record nobody thought they would even sniff at this point in the season.
Porzingis has turned the jeers into cheers, taking all the bad mouthing that he received from his fickle Knicks fan base and shoved it right back in their faces.
Now Knicks fans are doing their best to act like they never bashed the kid. The hypocrisy is pathetic. Knicks fans are now seen chanting his name during games; have nick-named him Godzinis (Godzilla + Porzingis) and act like he's the best thing since sliced bread.
Ask any Knicks' fan now and they will either deny they ever said anything nasty about him, or admit they were wrong. Watch these phonies turn their backs to Porzingis when he hits the inevitable wall that all young players hit.
Perhaps Knicks' fans should take umbrage in knowing that Phil Jackson does indeed know more about basketball then they do. The guy played in the league and coached in the league, and has won 11 NBA titles for a reason. He is considered the Zen Master for a reason. But don't tell that to Knicks fans.
I feel good for Porzingis and bad for him at the same time. I am happy to see this young man succeed at such a high level. At the same time he has gone through more scrutiny than any young player I have ever seen come through New York.
Eli Manning didn't get bashed and praised back during his rookie campaign to the extents Porzingis has this year. Mark Sanchez got a pass by Jets fans until they took the blinders off and saw what we all knew by 2011. Matt Harvey has been the second coming to Mets fans since forever, inspite of his bad boy attitude. The Yankees haven't had any star rookies since some kid named Derek Jeter back in 1995.
While playing in New York brings great responsibility to any player, no player deserves to be as excoriated and praised to these extents. Porzingis is just 20; he has plenty of learning and growing to do in New York. Hopefully New York's fans aren't that ignorant to start bashing him again when the going gets tough.