Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Kristaps Porzingis isn't sure what to expect from the home crowd when he returns to Madison Square Garden on Thursday. But based on what he's seen from Knicks fans on Instagram and Twitter, he's bracing for a cold reception (which he's sure to get).
"Social media is mostly negative. But we'll see. It's going to be a lot of emotion," Porzingis said Wednesday after Mavs practice at the National Basketball Players Association offices in Manhattan.
Porzingis was back in New York City on Wednesday for the first time since he was traded -- at his request -- to Dallas last January.
He didn't want to talk about the reasons behind his trade request, which were centered on a lack of faith in the franchise to build a winner and help him reach his potential.
"You know what? It's in the past now and I don't want to bring it back up, you know? It is what it is, it happened and now I'm in a new place and looking forward to what's ahead of me," he said.
Porzingis enters Thursday's game coming off of a 1-for-11 night against Boston. On the season, the 7-3 forward/center is averaging 18.3 points on 40 percent shooting along with 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
"I'm excited, I'm excited to play in this game. And bounce back after the Boston game," he said. "Playing at the Garden is always fun. It's going to be interesting."
It's also going to be emotionally charged. Porzingis is sure to be booed by Knicks fans who are upset that he requested a trade from their favorite franchise.
When asked on Wednesday what his emotions will be like at MSG, Porzingis said, "A lot of excitement, a lot of memories. A lot of good memories mostly. It's going to be weird at the same time. First time in the visitor's locker room, it's going to be different. But I'm looking forward to it."
The Knicks dumped the salaries of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee in the Porzingis trade and acquired Dennis Smith Jr. and two future first-round draft picks in the transaction. New York didn't attract its top targets in free agency (Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard). After missing on those players, the Knicks signed several veterans to short-term deals and inked Julius Randle to a three-year contract.
The winner and loser of the deal will be debated for years to come, but the Knicks are probably more concerned about righting their own ship than they are about the perception of the trade.
New York is 2-9 and has lost five games by at least 18 points. There is speculation about head coach David Fizdale's job security, along with the job status of team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry.
Porzingis, who played for four head coaches (one was an interim) during his time in New York, was asked about the uncertainty surrounding this current Knicks team.
"When I was there the expectations were always high for us," he said. "The city is always hungry for success in basketball. And for them -- for the fans -- and the city to be going through that year after year, it's got to be tough. So it's always a lot of pressure. And when things aren't going right, usually there needs to be changes. This year is no different for them again. It's tough. It is what it is."
In Dallas, Porzingis is playing for Rick Carlisle, a coach with maybe as much security as anyone in pro sports. He was asked about the difference between playing for a franchise with coaching stability and playing for a franchise without such stability, like the Knicks.
"It's obviously a positive here that a coach has been here for many, many years and won here and is well respected here," he said. "(Going through coaching changes is) tough as a player, of course. But that's not something I can affect really. So it happened that way in New York and everything is a learning experience for me."
Porzingis has said that he loved his time in New York. Throughout his tenure, he talked regularly about his affinity for playing in the city.
He was asked on Wednesday what he loved about the Big Apple.
"Just everything. The way people treated me, the support I got," he said. "When you're a Knick - and we weren't even doing that well - but when you're decent, there's usually a lot of love and you get treated really well. This is a basketball city. And it sucks that we never really got to do something big here." Porzingis noted that it took the Mavericks a long time to get to the NBPA facility in midtown on Wednesday because of traffic.
Does he miss that aspect of living in Manhattan?
"It's a weird thing, I don't but I do at the same time. It's a good feeling to be back, honestly," he said.
The 24-year-old is the object of scorn from a lot of Knicks fans on social media because he asked for a trade. (It's worth wondering why he chose to ask for a trade from a city that he loved playing in, but I can understand why fans would be more loyal to their team than a player who leaves). Porzingis on Wednesday said he sees some of the negative posts from Knicks fans on social media and he understands it.
"It's hard not to see it. But it is what it is. Everybody can say their opinion on social media and you don't have to read it all if you don't want to, you don't have to pay attention to it," he said. "So, sometimes I see it, sometimes I don't look at it. It is what it is. I understand where they're coming from, so it's normal."