Kristaps Porzingis believes he’s entering his second season in the NBA a wiser player.
After a breakout rookie season for the New York Knicks, Porzingis enters his second season with high expectations. He showed the potential of a transcendent star — a 7-foot-3 big man who moves like a forward, can space the floor, and defend the rim at just 21 years old — but now, he must continue to work toward those lofty heights.
Speaking from the Knicks media day in White Plains, New York, on Monday, Porzingis said he thinks he has a simple advantage this season: experience. He’s been through this once and can do it again.
“Just knowing what to expect now,” Porzingis said when asked what he thinks will be the biggest difference from last year to this year. “The season is long, 82 games, I know how it feels. Back-to-back [games] and four games in seven nights or whatever, I know what it’s like now, and I know how much I gotta take care of that. More mature, more experienced.”
By almost all measures, Porzingis exceeded expectations as a rookie. Aside from the usual concerns over how a rookie will fair in the NBA, some wondered whether, at 20 years old, Porzingis would struggle with the overall adjustment, particularly living in the U.S. for the first time. Instead, that was the easy part.
“That part was pretty easy for me this time. I mean, I moved to Spain [to play professionally] when I was 15 years old — that was a tough transition right there. But moving to America, that was pretty easy, adjusted well. But just the season. The schedule is tough. And you think it’s tough, but then you actually feel it on your own skin, and that’s when you know it’s real. So, I just know what to expect this time.”
He also knows that the adjustment will be in his hands. Porzingis said he can rely on his experience playing in Spain to know to push himself to get better.
“I know just from the experience in ACB [the Spanish professional league], I had a good first season, as my first professional year, and coming into the second season I was thinking, ‘It’s gonna be fine, I’m gonna be doing this, this, and so much better, and nothing happened,” Porzingi said. “I had a few terrible games in the beginning of the season and realised that you know, it’s not gonna happen by itself. I gotta make it happen, I gotta… do this, this, and this.”
He continued, “During the summer, I’ve been remembering how it was a couple years ago and I know what to expect now going into the second season. It’s gonna be tougher for me, it’s not gonna get easier. So, I really have to be ready for it, for tougher defence, and just make stuff happen with a little more pressure on me.”
After a hot start last year, Porzingis tailed off as the season wore on. After the All-Star break, Porzingis averaged more points per game, but his efficiency declined, as did his rebounding numbers and on-court defensive impact. Porzingis said he struggled with tighter defences, but thinks the Knicks’ offseason additions will make life easier for him and his teammates.
Porzingis told reporters he’s been working on lower body strength and will have some new skills to show off when the games begin. Overall, Porzingis said he feels more comfortable in the NBA, both on the floor and off of it.
“You’re gonna see some new stuff from me this season… It should be a fun year.”