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Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis ready to play 82 games, including Christmas Day

Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks

Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks reacts on the bench after leaving a game in the second half against the Orlando Magic at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 in New York City. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Kristaps Porzingis’ eyes lit up when he talked about playing on Christmas Day. It’s something he said he’s looked forward to since the schedule came out, and he can’t wait to experience it.

There was some question as to whether the Knicks’ second-year big man could play Sunday after suffering a bruised right knee in Thursday night’s win over Orlando.

Porzingis said he still feels some pain. But he participated in the non-contact parts of practice Friday, went through a long shooting session after the rest of the players had left and declared that he will be ready to play Christmas Day against the Celtics.

“Oh, it’s going to be huge,” he said. “At the Garden? Already the atmosphere [at the Garden] is unbelievable. I can’t imagine what’s going to happen on Sunday. I’m looking forward to it.”

Porzingis wouldn’t want to miss playing on Christmas for the first time in his pro career. But just playing is what’s important to Porzingis, the Knicks’ second-leading scorer at 19.9 points per game. One of his main goals this season is to be able to play in all 82 games.

“I want to do it,” he said. “Just to prove that I can do it, that my body can hold up. I’m really paying a lot of attention to all the recovery and making sure I’m ready for every game. Hopefully I have a long career in the NBA. It’s going to be important for me to know how hard it is and being ready for every game, knowing my team needs me.”

Porzingis wants to prove that he can play in every game to a lot of people. “To myself and everybody from outside looking in at a skinny Euro,” he said. “Obviously, it’s tough for my body, but I want to go through it. I know I can. Hopefully I can stay healthy the rest of the season and keep going.”

Porzingis, who missed 10 games as a rookie, said he could have gone through all of practice, but the Knicks were cautious and held him back.

He banged knees with Orlando center Nikola Vucevic on the first play of the fourth quarter Thursday night. Porzingis said he felt “a sharp pain” and couldn’t put pressure on it at first, but it gradually improved. Porzingis could have returned to the game, but the Knicks were winning handily. “It’s already getting better,” he said.

The Knicks have played on Christmas more than any other team. They will play for the 51st time after missing out last season.

The Knicks’ 17-65 record in 2014-15 likely contributed to their being bypassed last Christmas. But the Knicks showed improvement last season and Porzingis quickly became a popular player throughout the league. The additions of former All-Stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to play alongside Carmelo Anthony and Porzingis have helped the Knicks (16-13) in the standings and made it an easy choice to put them in one of the Christmas Day showcase games.

They will be wearing a newly designed blue jersey with New York in orange script specifically for this game.

“Just wearing those Christmas jerseys is special,” Porzingis said. “But everything about it; you want to have a good Christmas and win a game and celebrate with your family. It’s going to be a big game.”

It’s also big because the Knicks are a half-game behind Boston in the standings and were embarrassed by the Celtics in November. In the eighth game of the Knicks’ season, they were buried by 28 points in Boston, a game in which Anthony was ejected. The Knicks were whistled for six technical fouls in the game and Porzingis earned one of them.

“It’s going to be like a redemption game for us,” he said. “We didn’t play well and all the other stuff wasn’t going our way. It was just a tough game for us. We want it. We want it especially at home. We want to redeem ourselves.”


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