Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Whatever Carmelo Anthony thinks about the Knicks' first pick in the 2015 draft -- a matter he deemed "a little bit irrelevant" at this stage -- he seems to be doing right by Kristaps Porzingis.
The Knicks' resident 31-year-old veteran star has been mentoring their 20-year-old prospective star, schooling him in one-on-one moves, advising him about the scrutiny he is about to face and aiming to "kind of be a big brother to him."
"I kind of feel sorry for him," Anthony said Monday during the Knicks' annual media day in a tent outside their practice facility. "There's so much pressure on him at this point and this guy hasn't played not even one minute in the NBA."
He later said: "To be a newcomer into this game, into this league, in New York, that's tough. I don't think he knows what he's about to get himself into, so I've got to kind of be that wall for him."
It is a nice sentiment from a star aiming to show leadership despite his reportedly lukewarm initial reaction to Porzingis being the Knicks' reward for the worst season in their history, an apparent 7-3 project at No. 4 overall in the draft. But here is the best thing about it: Though Porzingis appreciates Anthony's help and could well benefit from it, he does not seem to require much of it.
As he has since the night he was drafted, the young Latvian appears to be thoroughly unperturbed by his situation, answering questions calmly and with a sense of humor in near-perfect English.
Example: Might all the other international players on the roster help him adapt? Shrug.
"For me, the transition isn't that hard because I speak English, I know the culture," he said. "I already know it more or less, so it's not a hard transition for me."
Just in case, Porzingis already has his two older brothers living here, and his parents are coming in a couple of weeks. That, in addition to his personality, has him confident he can handle whatever comes.
"My family, they keep my head straight and make sure I do the right thing and not worry about other stuff too much," he said. "That's the main thing for a young guy in a big city like this."
All that being said, having Anthony on board is a plus on multiple levels. He can help the new guy, but helping the new guy also could keep Anthony engaged during what could be another challenging season.
"I've showed everybody that I support Porzingis," Anthony said. "As long as me and KP know our relationship, that's all that really matters. It doesn't matter what somebody else might speculate out there."
Said Porzingis: "Me and Melo, we're great. I'm trying to learn as much as I can from him, asking him questions. For me to be around him all day long is great. I'm just trying to get as much information as I can."
Much of their interaction has come in the form of one-on-one games to five points during informal precamp workouts.
"As I played against him, he was showing off all his moves and I was trying to learn from him, asking him how he did this, how he did that, how he moves his feet and all that kind of stuff," the rookie said.
Melo won most of the games, Porzingis said, but not all of them. Anthony is seven inches shorter but is listed at 240 pounds, seven more than the Zinger, who said he gained 11 pounds in recent weeks and knows he needs to get stronger.
"It was fun just to learn from him and realize how hard it is to guard him one-on-one, and we were playing in the low post and high post; Melo is the best player in those areas," Porzingis said.
Anthony recalled being a 19-year-old high draft pick in 2003 and preferring to learn mostly on his own. So he aims to provide more of a gentle touch than a heavy-handed one. "He's a guy who wants to learn by himself," he said. "He wants to go through the experiences on his own. I'm just there to be that sounding board . . . I'll be there for him."