CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Kristaps Porzingis expected to get winded after sitting out most of the week with a strained left quadriceps, and he did.
But that wasn't the worst part of his night. Porzingis went up for a one-handed dunk and Hornets big man Cody Zeller leaped a little bit higher and denied his slam attempt.
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Porzingis likely will have many welcome-to-the-NBA moments this season, but the 7-3 rookie from Latvia also believes he will show he belongs in the NBA.
"Sometimes you get blocked," he said. "I'm sure I'll dunk on some people too."
Porzingis shot 3-for-11 and had six points and four rebounds in 16 minutes in the Knicks' 97-93 preseason loss to the Hornets Saturday night at Time Warner Cable Arena. Porzingis missed the previous two games because of the quadriceps.
"Stats aren't really the barometer for him," Derek Fisher said. "It's not about how many points he scores or how he looks in terms of can he be the second scoring option or the third scoring option. It's just continuing to be comfortable with how hard you have to compete every night. He appears to have that in him.
"I saw aggression. I saw him going to the rim strong. I saw him rebounding. I saw him changing shots. He's been in and out, so the shooting is not really my issue. I don't think we can question whether or not he can shoot the ball. Seeing him try to go dunk on somebody -- he played a good game."
Porzingis could have played Friday night against the Celtics, but Fisher gave him the night off because he planned to rest several starters and regulars. Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon, Robin Lopez and Kyle O'Quinn were healthy scratches for the second night of the back-to-back.
Second-year players Cleanthony Early and Langston Galloway had 17 and 15 points, respectively. Galloway shot 6-for-7, including 3-for-3 from three-point range, and six assists. Derrick Williams added 14 points for the Knicks, who lost for the first time in five preseason games.
If Porzingis can stay healthy, he still has one more preseason game and about seven practices to shake off the rust and get ready for the regular season. He has been sidelined twice since the start of training camp -- first with a sore left knee and then the quadriceps. "I think these two games will give me some more time to prepare myself," he said. "In a few days I'll be fine and can't wait for the season to start."
Notes & quotes: Jeremy Lin was a free agent over the summer and was interested in returning to the Knicks, but he said they had no interest in him. He ended up signing with the Hornets. "There was no conversation other than them telling me they weren't interested," Lin said.
Fisher naturally was overjoyed with news that former Lakers teammate Lamar Odom is conscious and talking. "Not clearly out of danger at this point," Fisher said, "but obviously I'm very happy that he was able to speak some words and let everybody know he's still here. I think it's proof that we always have to have faith no matter what."
. . . Porzingis was too young to watch Hornets associate head coach Patrick Ewing play for the Knicks, but he knows who he is. "He's a legend in New York," Porzingis said. "He's huge. The first day I got there I saw his jersey retired so I know he's a legend there."