Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis told the New York Daily News' Frank Isola he is confident he can take over as the face of the franchise after New York traded Carmelo Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.
"I am ready for the challenge," Porzingis told Isola. "I've been preparing myself for this moment."
In his first interview since returning to the United States, the Knicks' former first-round draft pick talked about what having Anthony as a teammate meant to him, discussed his relationship with head coach Jeff Hornacek and explained why he worked out on his own this offseason in Larvia.
"Carmelo was a mentor to me," Porzingis said. "He was a big brother from Day 1. I texted him to tell him I appreciated that I was able to learn from him. Having him around was important for me. I respect him a lot. I also told him that if he doesn't bring his Rolls Royce with him, I'll take care of it."
Porzingis, who reportedly skipped his exit meeting due to Hornacek, did not explain why he skipped the meeting, however he said he hopes he, Hornacek and new team president Steve Mills can have "a new start."
"All I'm looking for is a fresh start and not to talk about that anymore," Porzingis said.
Porzingis, who led Latvia to the Eurobasket quarterfinals earlier this month, said working out independently allowed him to come into the 2017-18 season with a new mindset.
"It was important that I disconnected from everything," said Porzingis, who averaged 18.1 points and 7.2 rebounds in his second season as a Knick. "I was working on my game and resting my mind. I kept working hard this summer to put myself in this position. I'm coming in with a fresh mind. I don't want to carry anything from the previous season."
Though the Knicks got younger after trading Anthony and bolstering their roster with players such as Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Frank Ntilikina, Porzingis is optimistic the team can play well this season.
"As soon as we get together in training camp, we'll see what we're capable of doing," Porzingis said. "We have a young team, but if we can come together we can do some things."