GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Kristaps Porzingis doesn’t carry himself like a rookie, but when he doesn’t know something or needs some tips, there are six players with at least seven years of NBA experience to whom he can turn in the Knicks’ locker room.
The 76ers’ top seven players have nine years of NBA experience combined.
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Philadelphia (1-26) is lacking in many areas, namely victories, knowing how to win games and veteran leadership. That could have contributed to some of the off-court problems and fights that rookie Jahlil Okafor has had, and ultimately the team-imposed two-game suspension that kept him out of the Dec. 2 game against the Knicks.
Porzingis and Okafor will face off for the first time Friday night in Philadelphia when the Knicks (12-14) go for their third straight win and try to avoid becoming the 76ers’ second victim.
The Knicks still are learning how to win together, but the front office made a concerted effort to assemble a good mix of professionals who would be able to build something on the court and in the locker room.
They already had Carmelo Anthony and Jose Calderon, signed free agents Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Sasha Vujacic and re-signed Lou Amundson, hoping they had the right people around Porzingis for his development.
“That was a big part of why we specifically went after certain guys in free agency, in Robin and Arron, guys that we felt like could provide that type of leadership and example,” coach Derek Fisher said after practice Thursday. “Re-signing Lance Thomas, making sure Langston Galloway was still going to be a part of our team — even though those guys are younger, they still have a mature approach about how they go about their business every day.
“We hope that that’s rubbing off on Kris and Jerian [Grant] and the young guys. That was important. We definitely value it a lot.”
Fisher, who was drafted the same year as Kobe Bryant, had Byron Scott, Shaquille O’Neal, Robert Horry, A.C. Green and Glen Rice to help him when he was a young player with the Lakers.
Afflalo was drafted by the veteran-laden Pistons in 2007 and learned from champions Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. Afflalo said it helped tremendously in his development.
“I was very, very fortunate to learn how to play the game the right way, to have the right habits, the winning mentality,” Afflalo said. “So a team like Philly, it’s just going to take time. There’s going to be some growing pains, and if they’re fortunate enough to get some good, solid veterans that can help you win, great. Otherwise, you’re going to go through a struggle.
“Hopefully KP is soaking in things.”
Fisher said the Knicks can’t overlook the 76ers and believes they’re better than their record indicates. He credits Brett Brown with doing “an amazing job” to get his team to compete every night and said it pays to have players who can close games like Anthony.
“We’re nowhere near that place where we can somehow think because of somebody else’s record that we shouldn’t take it seriously,” Fisher said. “We got a long way to go before we think that way.
“They’ve had the leads in fourth quarters a lot of nights and just haven’t been able to close it. For all the things that people don’t like about superstars and how much they shoot the ball — Kobe — and people complain about how many times Carmelo shoots, it’s a lot easier to win in the fourth quarter when you have one of those guys. We’re fortunate from that perspective.”