GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Kristaps Porzingis said it will be weird facing Carmelo Anthony on opening night, and difficult matching up against him. But Porzingis doesn’t plan to watch any extra film to get him ready.
“I watched him every day for two years,” Porzingis said following Tuesday’s practice. “I know what he does, how he can score. But if there was an answer to what he’s doing and how to defend that, that would be nice. But there’s no film I can watch and say now I know how to guard this. So I’m going to try to use my length as much as I can.
“He’s been in the league for 13, 14 years. I think everybody knows what he’s doing but nobody can stop him. It’s going to be a challenge for me. I’m going to do my best.”
When the Knicks tip off the regular season Thursday in Oklahoma City, it will be their past against their future. The Knicks are a rebuilding team with Porzingis taking over for Anthony as face of the franchise and focal point of the offense.
Jeff Hornacek won’t reveal his starting lineup, but Porzingis will be at power forward. Hornacek said the 7-3 Porzingis would match up against the Thunder’s 6-8 power forward, Anthony.
“Carmelo’s a tough guy to play one-on-one,” Hornacek said. “[Porzingis] knows his game. Carmelo knows his. It’s going to be a good battle.”
Anthony was traded just before training camp started, joining what is considered a “super team” in today’s NBA. With league MVP Russell Westbrook and perennial All-Star Paul George, Anthony has a chance to chase a championship after missing the playoffs the past four years.
Porzingis acknowledged the Knicks are a long way from contending.
“We don’t have that type of talent like they do,” Porzingis said. “Obviously now with Golden State and Cavaliers and a few more teams they’re trying to bring in stars and make the best team possible to try to compete with those two teams, so we’re pretty far away from that right now. But we’ve got to keep going. We’re a young team and hopefully in time we’ll get to that.”
The Knicks stated their plan to build around Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Willy Hernangomez and Frank Ntilikina long before trading Anthony.
They acquired Enes Kanter, who could start at center, Doug McDermott, likely one of their first players off the bench, and Chicago’s second-round pick for Anthony. The 10-time All-Star waived his no-trade clause to join a contender.
“He’s an amazing scorer, he’s a great teammate, so they’re lucky to have him,” Lance Thomas said of Anthony.
Thomas, one of the Knicks’ best defenders, also will see time guarding Anthony. He was his closest friend on the team and thanked Anthony in an open letter on The Players’ Tribune.
Thomas was a part of the pick-up games with “Hoodie Melo” over the summer and has kept in touch with Anthony.
“He loves his teammates, he loves the organization and he’s enjoying his new chapter,” Thomas said. “I know he’s excited. Me personally, I wish him the best because I know how hard he’s worked this summer and I wish him health and success for the season.”
Anthony said he needed a change after losing some of his motivation and joy he got from basketball in recent years. Former Knicks president Phil Jackson was a big factor in that.
Although Porzingis was upset about Anthony’s departure, he’s happy he’s in a better place.
“I wanted him to stay, and to play with him and learn from him and so on,” Porzingis said. “But from the other side, I understand that he needed a new challenge in his career and he wants to win a championship one day. He’s in an environment where he might be able to do that soon. So I’m happy for him.”
Ntilikina has a full practice
Ntilikina practiced in full for the first time since suffering a bruised right knee Oct. 3. Barring a setback, he’s expected to make his NBA debut Thursday. “He did good,” Hornacek said. “He’s going to pick guys up, use his length. He got us into the offense, cutting hard and learning the little things about his teammates every day — where they like the ball. He’s a solid player right now. We don’t have any fear of having to put him in the game.’’