Dan Feldman

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 19:  Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks celebrates his three point shot in the first half against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on February 19, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

51Q: Can Kristaps Porzingis keep up with rapidly rising expectations?


We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. Between now and the start of the NBA season we will tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season (we’re taking some weekends off). Today:

Can Kristaps Porzingis keep up with rapidly rising expectations?

Four Knicks starters have played in a combined 39 playoff series.

Yet New York’s most valuable player has never reached the postseason.

The Knicks are mollifying 32-year-old Carmelo Anthony by building on his timeline. In came battle-tested Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah this offseason.

That means 21-year-old Kristaps Porzingis must keep up.

Porzingis is no longer a rookie, no longer the reigning No. 4 pick who drew boos and tears on draft night, no longer a player who seemed so unready that Anthony reportedly felt “betrayed” by New York drafting him (though Anthony denied that).

Porzingis is a budding star on a self-described super team/contender. That comes with major expectations.

Can Porzingis meet them?

Re-do the 2015 draft, and Porzingis goes No. 2 behind Karl-Anthony Towns. The Knicks are thrilled they got him at No. 4.

At 7-foot-3, Porzingis can run the floor and shoot 3-pointers. He blocks shots at the rim with his length and hops. His frequent putback dunks reveal his athleticism and basketball intelligence.

There’s no shortage of reasons to be excited about Porzingis’ future.

His present? Even though he was far more NBA ready than expected, there are a couple warts. His outside shot was up and down throughout the season. He’s not strong enough to battle bulkier players in the post.

Those are minor issues for most teams that draft No. 4 then follow it with a 32-50 season. But the Knicks aren’t on the usual timeline.

They’re trying to accelerate their ascent before it’s too late for Anthony. The most-telling example: Giving 31-year-old Joakim Noah a four-year, $72.59 million contract. Porzingis’ best NBA position will eventually be center, if it isn’t already. Now, Noah has that spot locked up for the next four years at a price that will limit New York’s ability to add help at other positions.

Simply, the Knicks aren’t building around Porzingis – a result of the massive age gap between him and Anthony. They’re asking Porzingis to develop quickly, and New York fans have high hopes for their unicorn.

Those are massive expectations, internally and externally.

Porzingis has the talent to meet them. But it might take time this team and this market aren’t willing to give.

Fairly or not, it’s on Porzingis to step up.

Brandon Armstrong recreates Tracy McGrady’s 13 points in 35 seconds (video)


In case the above has you hungry for the real thing:

Shane Larkin says he doesn’t regret opting out of Nets contract despite landing in Spain

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 22:  Shane Larkin #0 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts after missing a shot against the Charlotte Hornets during their game at the Barclays Center on March 22, 2016 in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Shane Larkin opted out of a contract with the Nets that paid him $1.5 last season and would’ve duplicated that salary this year. Instead of landing in the NBA with a raise, he signed in Spain.

Larkin, in a Q&A with Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype:

You saw a lot of guys opting out of their contract in free agency and it went well for most of them. You did the same, didn’t go so well for you. Any regret?

SL: Not really. The situation in Baskonia is a better situation than Brooklyn knowing that they wanted to go in a different direction. I could have possibly been in a bad situation with the guards they drafted perhaps playing in front of me because the new management might want to see them play. That situation wasn’t ideal. I don’t feel any regret about my decision. Obviously, it’s not all about the money, but I’m playing for more money this year than I did last year and I’m playing in a good situation where I’m going to have a lot of people watching me play and seeing my improvement. I’ll play in a competition where there’s a bunch of talented players. I think there’s 10 guys that were in the Euroleague that signed NBA deals this summer.

Even if Larkin’s base salary is higher – his claim – it’s hard to believe he’ll come out ahead financially. He won’t receive a shortfall check. He won’t earn a year of service, which leads to a higher minimum salary and better healthcare in retirement.

There’s a reason Larkin changed agents during free agency.

As Larkin said, money isn’t everything. But that’s often something said by people who screw up their finances.

Raptors extend president Masai Ujiri’s contract

Masai Ujiri, Dwane Casey
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Galit Rodan

Masai Ujiri’s three years with the Raptors have been the best in franchise history – 48, 49 and 56 wins and Toronto’s deepest playoff run. Part of that is a strong-than-realized roster Ujiri inherited from Bryan Colangelo, but Ujiri has guided the Raptors forward.

So, they want him to stay a while. Like most moves involving Ujiri, Toronto succeeded.

Raptors release:

The Toronto Raptors announced Friday they have signed President Masai Ujiri to a multi-year contract extension and promoted Jeff Weltman to general manager and Bobby Webster to assistant general manager/vice-president basketball strategy. Ujiri will continue to oversee basketball operations as president of the club.

Ujiri re-signed Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan amid heavy outside interest, lured DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph to Toronto and absolutely fleeced the Knicks in the Andrea Bargnani trade. That résumé earned him this extension.

Sorry, Knicks.

Report: Sir’Dominic Pointer signing in Israel rather than with Cavaliers

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 28:  Sir'Dominic Pointer #15 of the St. John's Red Storm points as he cheers and runs down the court after a play against the Georgetown Hoyas during the game at Madison Square Garden on February 28, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Nate Shron/Getty Images)
Nate Shron/Getty Images

It’s a prime time to join the Cavaliers.

Cleveland has just 12 players with guaranteed salaries, plus J.R. Smith and/or minus Mo Williams. And the Cavs still have that championship shine that makes everyone associated with the team look better.

Sir’Dominic Pointer, the No. 53 pick by the Cavs last year, is not taking advantage.

Roey Gladstone of Sport 5 (hat tip: Chris Reichert of Upside & Motor):

Pointer already rejected the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum, teams must extend to second-round picks to retain their rights – last year. To do it again is curious.

If Pointer accepted the tender, he would’ve gone to training camp to compete for one of Cleveland’s three or so available regular-season roster spots. Winning an NBA job would’ve obviously paid more than Israel. Even the worst outcome in that scenario – getting waived – would’ve at least brought the advantage of making Pointer an NBA free agent.

As is, Pointer is doing the Cavs a favor. He’s allowing them to keep his exclusive negotiating rights without paying him (although perhaps they helped arrange his Israeli deal).

At some point, Pointer should consider accepting the tender if the Cavs don’t offer more in a multi-year deal. Even getting waived can jumpstart a player’s NBA career by making him a free agent.

Taking the tender this year made sense with so many roster openings, but apparently Pointer felt otherwise. We’ll see whether he ever gets a better opportunity.