In wake of Carmelo Anthony's return to Madison Square Garden for the first time, Kristaps Porzingis thinks the fans need to show him the respect and "love" he deserves.
The Oklahoma City Thunder travel to MSG on Saturday night, and the biggest storyline will be the former Knick in Anthony returning for the first time since he was traded this offseason. The Knicks are planning to a tribute for Anthony, who spent the past seven seasons in New York.
Porzingis, who is questionable with a sore knee for the game, can't see any fans booing his former teammate.
"I think he was as professional as he can be in his time here in New York, so I don't see why they would not receive him with love," Porzingis told ESPN's Ian Begley.
Anthony faced tons of media questions and speculation this past season as former team president, Phil Jackson, would publicly comment his want to trade the All-Star. Through all the hard times, though, he teammates had nothing but good words to say.
"You've got to respect him being a professional, how he handled everythin with the media last year," Courtney Lee said.
How the fans will react to see Melo in a new shade of blue and orange is still unknown. However, Lee believes it should mostly be cheers.
"I think more cheers than anything," Lee said. "You can't fault the guy for going out there and playing hard and leaving it all out there on the court and just trying to help the team win. Whether it was the style that some fans wanted or didn't want, he competed night in and night out."
Anthony, who is accompanied by All-Stars Paul George and Russell Westbrook, haven't gotten the start to the season they envisioned, as they sit eighth in the West entering Friday with a 13-14 record. Melo is also averaging career-lows in with 17.7 points, 40 percent shooting from the field, and 16.2 field goal attempts per game.
Despite the numbers, Tim Hardaway Jr. says not to underestimate Anthony who obviously knows how to play at MSG very well.
"He knows the arena. He knows the rims, knows the court, knows everything very well," Hardaway said. "So we expect him to come out here, and no matter how he's shooting the ball from wherever on the court, he's going to come out here, and we're going to treat him like he's an All-Star. And he's coming back home."
The Knicks, on the other hand, are in the thick of the early playoff hunt at 15-13 so far this season. Many have said it is because of Melo's departure that the team is exceeded expectations. But the team itself doesn't think that's the case.
"He plays great basketball, and teams play through him," Lance Thomas said. "Just because we relied on him a lot more to do that for us, that was a team thing. When in doubt, we gave Melo the ball. He wasn't bringing the ball up full court and just coming down and jacking the ball. We went to him. ... He's a great teammate, and a lot of us loved playing with him. So I don't think he held us back in any way, shape or form."
Instead, Lee believes the Knicks just made some adjustments to their offense, and if Anthony was still with the team, it still would've happened.
"If Melo was here, we would have made that adjustment with him," Lee said. "We can't point at him and say, 'Well, he left.' We made these adjustments. We were going to have this style of play this year, a little bit different than what we were going to have last year, with Melo."
The last time these two teams met was in the season opener in OKC, where Melo dropped 22 points on 8-of-20 shooting.