When Latvian Kristaps Porzingis was selected to the New York Knicks with the fourth pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, sections of the fans section booed the announcement.
Those boos and hisses were Knicks fans, who, after a dire 17-65 season, previously wanted someone who could assist superstar Carmelo Anthony on the points sheet and take the Knicks back the Playoff contending side that they should be.
Those very fans thought that the choice of a 7’2″ big would not be the answer to the Big Apple’s mounting concerns.
But now as we enter the festive period, those very Knick fans are singing the big Latvian’s praises more than they are singing Christmas carols in Times Square.
Porzingis meanwhile, has taken the undeserved criticism on his shoulder and swatted it away like the many guards who have boldly attempted to take him on in the paint and now he sits proudly as the NBA Rookie of the Month for October/November in the Eastern Conference with number one overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns taking the Western Conference award.
The 20-year-old from Liepāja, the third largest city in Latvia, was ranked third among all rookies in scoring [13.7 ppg], was second in rebounding [9.3 rpg] and blocked shots [1.89 bpg] for October and November.
Not bad going for someone that began his NBA life getting booed.
But it is all in the past now. Maybe the Knicks fans were not aware of Porzingis’ versatility at the time, or the fact that he spent last season playing for Liga Endesa strugglers Sevilla and didn’t look at the stats and personal accolades, such as the Eurocup Rising Star award last season.
“Clearly, I think he’s the clear case for Rookie of the Year right now. I would believe so, with all the naysayers in the beginning, and then him coming out and just playing hard,’’ Brooklyn Nets veteran point guard Jarrett Jack told the New York Post.
“Sure, he has some skills to go with it, but from what I’ve seen, he puts himself in position to get tip-dunks. I’ve seen him in situations where he’s gotten steals on the break, making plays.”
The Knicks are currently 9-10 in the early going. But now, they are not touted as the whipping boys of the East, if these performances keep up, the Playoff appearances will return and the lanky Latvian will be right there in the thick of it.