Porziņģis. The Latvian basketball phenom has become a household name, a long ways from draft day last year. Selected 4th overall by the Knicks, New York fans weren’t happy with the pick, making their displeasure known with boos and even tears in the case of one young fan. Kristaps quickly went to work on making new friends, debuting against the Milwaukee Bucks with 16 points and 5 rebounds. Over the first 18 games he averaged third among all rookies in scoring with 13.7 points per game, and second in rebounding (9.3 rpg) and blocked shots (1.89 bpg).
Pronounced chris-stops pour-zin-gis, the 7 foot 3 power forward was born in Liepāja on August 2, 1995. After working his way up in the youth squads he played for Cajasol Sevilla for four years at which point he was old enough for the NBA. Having competed with the Latvia youth national team at the 2013 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championships, every single Latvian basketball fan has their fingers crossed that he’ll join the Latvian Olympic team for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
We caught the Knicks against the Hornets in Charlotte a couple of weeks ago. Although New York started off strong, they seemingly ran out of steam, finishing for an 84-97 loss. They’ll get a rematch on April 6th on the Knicks home court.
The Knicks are currently 10th in the Eastern conference, Porziņģis leading the stats in rebounds, and in the top five for points per game, steals, free throw % and even 3-point %. After 50 games our hero is third-highest scorer on the Knicks, his 13.9 points/game surpassed only by Carmelo Anthony (21.3ppg) and (just barely!) by Arron Afflalo (14ppg). Just yesterday he was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for the third consecutive month.
He’s earned the support of not only Knicks fans, but Latvian fans worldwide. Despite a poorly worded sentence early on in his NBA career, there have been two rap songs written about the superstar, and although Porziņģis fans failed to get Kristaps to the All Star game, he was the only rookie in the ballot's top 50, finishing a few slots behind his teammate Carmelo Anthony. There were at least a couple of Latvian flags in the Time Warner Cable Arena that night, and quite a few Latvians in the house to see KP play.
For us, the passion for basketball has been reignited by KP’s arrival on the NBA scene. The two older boys got to high-five him on his way off the court and there have been dozens of basketball and Porziņģis related questions since; with both boys playing bball this season in the parks & rec league, we’ve got a serious case of basketball fever! Let me know in the comments – what’s your favorite Kristaps Porziņģis nickname?