Kristaps Porzingis and the power of patience

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NEW YORK – As Adam Silver walked to the podium to announce the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, everyone in the media area who saw Adrian Wojnarowski’s tweet regarding the Knicks’ selection knew what was in store for Kristaps Porzingis when his name came out of the commissioner’s mouth.

On cue the Knicks faithful showered the 7’ 1” 19-year old from Latvia with a downpour of boos as he made his way up to shake Silver’s hand. It was quite the response for the franchise’s highest draft pick since Patrick Ewing in 1985 and it’s something that Porzingis is determined to erase during his time in New York.

“I have to do everything that’s in my hands to turn those booing fans into clapping fans,” Porzingis said after holding up his freshly printed number 15 Knicks jersey. It’s a task that’s not going to be easy, but the seven footer has the type of game that could quickly turn New York’s perception of him.

Porzingis possesses an offensive skill set that has the chance to be otherworldly. His silky smooth shooting stroke will be on display right out of the box. He can spot up from beyond the arc and pull up off of the dribble. He can post up and score inside thanks to his extremely long frame. It’s easy to fall in love with his potential as a big in the Triangle Offense.

https://youtu.be/JWOjHoJ-U6A?t=4m6s

Beyond his offensive abilities, Porzingis’ extremely long frame (his wingspan has been rumored to be anywhere between 7’ 3” and 7’ 6”) allows him to cover quite a bit of ground on defense. If a guard gets around him, he has the length to alter their shot at the rim. If he traps on a pick-and-roll, he has the agility to recover and get back in front of his man.

Besides the obvious question marks about coming over from Europe, Porzingis’ body has been knocked during the draft process (Someone who is reading this just thought to themselves, well Darko was soft!), but the discussion about his body type has been blown out of proportion. Yes his body is a bit awkward and does resemble a baby giraffe, but so many people have been shouting that he needs to put on weight. Newsflash, he’s going to put on weight. Every player who enters the league is put on a weight training program in order to maximize their body.

There is film of Porzingis being knocked around by guys in the paint who are four to five inches smaller than him,

https://youtu.be/JWOjHoJ-U6A?t=8m30s

but over the next couple of years his body will evolve as he transforms from a 19-year old kid into a man, which will give him the ability to handle contact under the basket.

There’s just so much to like about Porzingis, but it’s hard to sell his potential that to a fanbase who is desperate to see a quick turnaround even though there doesn’t appear to be one in sight. Carmelo Anthony is an aging superstar who is coming off of knee surgery and is in desperate need of a stable foundation around him because right now the Knicks’ roster beyond Melo looks like this:

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Phil Jackson could pull off a couple of miracles in free agency due to the abundance of cap space New York has, but the Knicks haven’t been linked to any of the top free agents, unless you count pipe-dreams of Marc Gasol. The Knicks may have to go about this rebuilding process a different way, by developing their high draft picks into stars and that all begins with Porzingis.

“It’s crazy, you know for me, just playing in New York. Phil Jackson is a known hero,” Porzingis said. “First I’ll make sure I do my work, and he’ll make sure he puts me in a position where I can succeed.”

Now it’s Porzingis’ job to become the next known hero in New York.

Twitter – @ScottDargis

Pascal Siakam scores 37, Raptors remain red hot with win vs. Suns

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TORONTO (AP) — Pascal Siakam had 37 points and 12 rebounds and the Toronto Raptors beat the Phoenix Suns 118-101 on Friday night for their 16th victory in 17 games.

Serge Ibaka scored 16 points, Fred VanVleet and Terence Davis each had 14, Kyle Lowry had 13 points and 10 assists and OG Anunoby aded 12 points for the defending NBA champion Raptors.

After Toronto’s franchise-record 15-game winning streak ended with a loss at Brooklyn in the final game before the All-Star break, the Raptors bounced back by starting the second half with their eighth consecutive home victory.

The Raptors have not lost back-to-back games since an overtime loss at Indiana on Dec. 23 and a home loss to Boston on Christmas Day. Toronto has gone 19-1 since.

Siakam connected on 12 of 19 attempts, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

That was just one fewer than the six 3-pointers the Suns managed on 34 attempts. Phoenix shot 17.6%t from long range, its lowest mark of the season. No Suns player made more than one shot from distance.

Devin Booker scored 21 points and Deandre Ayton had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix. The Suns lost for the seventh time in nine games.

Ayton returned to the starting lineup after missing the final two games before the All-Star break because of a sore left ankle.

Phoenix trailed 93-78 through three quarters, but the Suns cut the gap to six points, 96-90 on a basket by Ayton with 8:08 left to play. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made a pair from the line, and VanVleet and Siakam both scored to put the Raptors up 102-90 with 6:58 remaining.

Booker missed a 3 with 4:45 left that would have made it a four-point game. Anunoby scored on a dunk and, after another missed 3 by the Suns, Ibaka banked home a 3-pointer to restore Toronto’s 12-point cushion.

Moe Harkless says no buyout with Knicks: “I’ll be here the rest of the year”

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Moe Harkless went from a guy often starting and playing critical minutes for a contender in the Clippers to being the matching salary in a trade and finding himself on the woeful Knicks.

“It is definitely an adjustment with the way things are,” Harkless told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “Everything is different, the culture and everything.”

If there was a player nobody would blame for wanting a buyout and the chance to get back to a team playing for something, it would be Harkless.

That’s not happening. Multiple reports have surfaced that he is not talking buyout with New York running up to the March 1 deadline. The latest comes from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Then Harkless was even more direct speaking to Bondy.

“I’ll be here the rest of the year,” he said.

Harkless has fans in NBA front offices, with the Lakers rumored to be among them (although they are about to land Markieff Morris in a similar role). Harkless could play good defensive minutes on the wing down the stretch for a team, buying rest for key guys, plus in the playoffs he could be advantageous in certain matchups.

Morris and the Knicks have time to change their minds, but it sounds like he will play out the season in New York then be a free agent next summer.

Lakers reportedly will waive DeMarcus Cousins to clear roster spot

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If the Lakers are going to add Markieff Morrisas has been rumored — or anyone else via free agency, they are going to need to clear out a roster spot.

That has the Lakers looking to waive DeMarcus Cousins, a report broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Cousins signed with the Lakers over the summer but never set foot on the court with them after tearing his ACL during summer workouts (which led to a scramble and L.A.’s fortuitous signing of Dwight Howard). He was around the team and rehabbing, and while they would never officially rule him out, Cousins was never expected to play.

He was not waived before because his $3.5 million salary might have been useful in a trade. When that didn’t materialize at the deadline it, became likely he could get waived.

It’s highly unlikely a team picks up Cousins this season, while he continues to rehab from his injury. However, it might be a good roll of the dice this summer by a team to sign him to a minimum contract for next season. Cousins still has some NBA basketball in him, if he can just stay healthy.

Karl-Anthony Towns has fractured wrist, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

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Karl-Anthony Towns was a surprise scratch from the Timberwolves last game before the All-Star break, a “left wrist injury” delaying the home debut of him with D'Angelo Russell (they did play a road game together in Toronto). Then came the rumors he could miss a few games when play started up again.

It’s going to be more than a few games, more than a few weeks.

Towns has a fractured left wrist, the team announced Friday. He is out and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. From the team press release:

“While Towns has been diligent in treatment with a goal of return to play, he has been assessed by multiple specialists over the last several days and the team continues to gather information on the optimal management strategies.”

Towns had been playing through wrist pain for a couple of weeks before this diagnosis.

Towns is having a career year on offense, averaging  26.5 points a game while shooting 41 percent from three (on 7.9 attempts per game), plus grabbing 10.8 rebounds a night. That has not translated into wins for Minnesota, however.

Towns being out doesn’t hurt the Timberwolves in the short term, they have fallen far out of the playoff chase in the West. However, this cuts into time Towns and Russell could have used to grow accustomed to each other’s games. It’s time lost for the coaching staff and front office as they evaluate the fit of players they have around Towns and Russell.