The Knicks selected Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, and plenty of fans were less than pleased with New York’s chosen direction.
Carmelo Anthony was reportedly among those decrying the pick, and it seems as though most Knicks fans would have preferred a household name from the college ranks rather than an international prospect whom the masses have seen play exclusively via grainy YouTube clips.
Phil Jackson, however, is charged with doing what’s best for the long-term health of the franchise in his role as president of basketball operations. And he trusted a long-time adviser’s somewhat strong opinion before making this critical selection.
“When someone says to me [that] this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I have to be alert,” Jackson said of what Knicks basketball adviser Clarence Gaines Jr. told him and how Porzingis eventually became a Knick. “And [I have to] consider that after he’s been in this business for as long as he has, I think he has as good of an eye as he has on talent.”
Quite frankly, those who are dismissing what Porzingis may bring to the professional level at this early stage are being jingoistic at best, and racist at worst.
It’s foolish and ignorant to equate Porzingis with someone like Darko Milicic just because they both played overseas before becoming high-lottery picks. Each player should be judged on his own merit, and Porzingis has a unique skill set and demeanor that could very well help him succeed in the NBA, where his European counterparts may have failed in the past.
One interesting thing to note where Porzingis is concerned is his strong grasp of the English language. He’s fluent in American English with barely a hint of an accent, and while that shouldn’t matter in terms of how people perceive him as a basketball player, once Knicks fans hear him in interviews and see what he’s able to provide offensively, those boos should turn to cheers far sooner than is perhaps being expected.