Knicks F Kristaps Porzingis continues to try and dismiss the label that he is "a soft, skinny, white Euro."
During the Knicks' matchup against the Mavericks Sunday night, F Wesley Matthews called Porzingis "soft" and "sweet" as he battled him all game long. Porzingis allowed the cursing and bumping to occur all game, but in the fourth while trying to get in position down low, he just fell after Matthews was physical with him, prompting a foul.
Matthews couldn't believe the whistle had blown, and that is what caused him to question Porzingis' grit. Porzingis says he usually blocks those things out during games, but this time he couldn't let it slide.
"It was physical and (Matthews) said some words. I said something back. We had a nice conversation," Porzingis told NY Daily News' Stefan Bondy. "I usually don't react to those things. I usually don't hear it. I just keep playing. This time it got a little too physical."
Matthews may have caused Porzingis to miss all of his fourth-quarter shots (0-for-5), but he still finished with a game-high 29 points in the team's 100-96 win on the road. However, the Mavericks have jumped on the bandwagon of using a smaller defender to try and disrupt Porzingis rather than match his 7-foot-3 stature.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was the first coach to try this tactic that has seemed to work in the past. For example, Matthews is only 6-foot-5, but his physicality at Porzingis' base forces the big man to find other ways to make baskets because it isn't easy to back someone down in this case.
To fix this issue, Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek thinks Porzingis needs to set better screens, which will turn into more opportunities with space.
"(The Mavericks) decided, 'Let's go, get in his legs and see what happens,'" Hornacek said. "That's a thing where if KP just sets a good screen and guys come off, then maybe he can roll to an open spot."
Porzingis set the Knicks' best screen of the night on Jarrett Jack's game-winning floater as he locked up Matthews, who couldn't switch to Jack on the drive. After the game, Matthews' narrative on Porzingis went from soft and sweet to the future of the NBA.
"I actually like watching him play," he said. "He's tremendously talented, the future of our league."