NEW ORLEANS — Kristaps Porzingis is a skilled big man, and he showed just how skilled Saturday night.
The Knicks’ 7-3 forward won the NBA’s Skills Challenge, beating Utah Jazz All-Star small forward Gordon Hayward in the finals.
“It’s a good feeling that I’m able to showcase my skill with my size and show to the kids that you’re capable of doing that even if you’re tall and lanky like me,” Porzingis said. “I think a lot of kids now growing up will improve those perimeter skills just seeing guys like — I don’t want to mention myself — but big guys with perimeter skills that can do it.”
After the Knicks’ disappointing first stretch of the season, Porzingis came to All-Star Weekend and tasted some success. He also had 24 points and 10 rebounds for the World Team, which won the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night.
“It does feel good to win no matter what,” Porzingis said. “The Rookie-Sophomore game, it felt good to get a win.”
The NBA changed this competition last year, adding big men to the challenge. A big man won for the second straight year, as Porzingis followed Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns.
Porzingis vanquished Kings center DeMarcus Cousins in the first round, Denver’s Nikola Jokic and finally Hayward.
In the obstacle course-like timed challenge that tests dribbling and passing and long-range shooting, Porzingis passed the ball through the net on the first try all three times. In the final, he hit the three-pointer on his first attempt to claim the title.
Porzingis said he focused on the passing and shooting. “I knew that the pass and the shot on the three-pointer was the most important parts of that,” he said. “I was able to make the pass on the first try all three times. And then in the final, that last shot just went in. So just a little bit of luck.”
It took some skill, too.
Big Dog III top dunker
Indiana’s Glenn Robinson III scored a perfect 50 after jumping over three people, including Pacers teammate Paul George, and throwing it down with his back to the rim to capture the Slam Dunk title. Robinson, the son of former NBA player Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, outjumped Phoenix’s Derrick Jones Jr., 94-87, in the finals.
Houston’s Eric Gordon beat Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, 21-18, in a tiebreaker round to win the Three-Point Contest.
Carmelo Anthony had to deal with a different sort of drama after being picked as an injury replacement for Kevin Love.
“It was more like a downer because I had to cancel my trip and there’s no refund,” said Anthony, who was headed to Puerto Rico. “So I can’t get my refund back. After a while, once I talked to family and everybody kind of understood it, [they] told me to make sure I get down here, enjoy the moment.”
Anthony said he missed Friday’s All-Star Media Day — the NBA excused his absence — because he wasn’t ready to come to New Orleans. “I was a little jealous from some of the pictures people were sending me of vacation, taking their breaks,” he said. “So I kind of shut my phone off from everybody who was sending me funny pictures of them laying out. But I don’t want to seem like I’m not happy about this moment. I’m truly happy and excited about this moment.”