GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The fans inside Barclays Center booed the Knicks' selection of Kristaps Porzingis, but team president Phil Jackson believes the 7-1 Latvian forward eventually will hear plenty of cheers.
Jackson called Porzingis "an eye-opening athlete and player" and used the No. 4 choice on him Thursday night, bypassing the more popular picks: point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, swingman Justise Winslow and center Willie Cauley-Stein. Some league executives and scouts believe Porzingis, 19, has the potential to be the best player from this draft.
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"We thought the risk-rewards were the greatest with this guy perhaps in the whole lottery," Jackson said. "The reaction of the crowd is what you anticipate in New York. He's aware of it. He's very much intelligent on this thing that 'I'm going to have to face an uphill battle.' But he's willing to take it on."See alsoRecap: 2015 NBA Draft
Jackson wasn't done, though. He said he wanted "mature" players and got one in what proved to be a productive night.
The Knicks acquired the draft rights to Notre Dame senior point guard Jerian Grant for Tim Hardaway Jr., a defensive liability whom they had been shopping.
Grant, the son of former NBA player Harvey Grant and nephew of Horace Grant (who played for Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles), was taken No. 19 by the Hawks and swapped for Hardaway in a three-way trade. Grant averaged 16.5 points and 6.7 assists last season.
Jackson also traded two future second-round picks for the draft rights to No. 35 pick Guillermo Hernangomez, but the center likely will stay in Europe.
Jackson said he had other trade opportunities that he was close to pursuing, but said they were contingent upon what happened before the Knicks picked.
Porzingis has played in Spain since 2012. He's long and lean, is a good shooter and can defend inside and on the perimeter. Jackson said he has "the capacity to step into 25-foot shots."
Porzingis might not be able to help the Knicks right away, but Jackson, citing his competitive fire, hopes he can.
"It's hard to tell," Jackson said. "We anticipate that he's anxious and willing. We'll see what kind of training we get during the course of the summer. Hopefully he's going to contribute to us."
Porzingis has drawn comparisons with NBA All-Stars Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki. Jackson likened him to Gasol, who was a skinny kid out of Spain.
"This young man has better range perhaps than Pau does, a natural three-point shooter, but that's the natural evolution of the game at this time," Jackson said. "There's a lot of comparisons to him. I think the structure of their bodies is very similar and the activity level, how they run, their athleticism, is similar."
Knicks fans, however, are concerned that Porzingis could be another Frederic Weis. Porzingis called it "my dream" to play for the Knicks and wants to show he's not Weis.
"For those people who don't know me, they may think I'm a soft European," Porzingis said on ESPN. "There have been busts before, but I'm different. I really love the game. I'm very hungry. It's my passion about my game that sets me apart."
This is just the start of the Knicks' summer rebuild. They will have more than $25 million in free agency, and Greg Monroe, LaMarcus Aldridge, David West and Wesley Matthews Jr. likely will be on their list. If they can get enough quality veterans, they can bring Porzingis along at a slower pace.
"My thought process is what do I do best for this franchise at this particular time in history and where we're at," Jackson said. "We need something athletic and to make a real difference in the way we play. This young man is an eye-opening athlete and player, and so that's something we have to go with."
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