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Kristaps Porzingis' competitive fire shows for Knicks

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis looks to

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis looks to pass in front of Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton during the second half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden on Friday, November 6, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Kristaps Porzingis was matched up against LeBron James, and the Cavaliers superstar took it right at the unproven rookie.

Advantage James, one would think. But it wasn't. Porzingis negated James' layup with his long arms.

The next time James got it against Porzingis, he drove on him again. Porzingis moved his feet and played good defense. This time, though, James scored and was fouled.

Porzingis is not going to stop every shot, but the fact that he didn't back down from one of the most physical players in the league should tell you plenty about the 7-3 Latvian.

He likes challenges. He wants to be good. And he doesn't understand why everyone seems so surprised when he plays aggressively, and why he's constantly asked about it.

"It's a weird question," Porzingis said. "That's the way I should be. I should be aggressive on the court, especially now playing in the NBA. I always got to stay sharp and aggressive on the court. That's the way I am. That's the way I should play always. Those moments when I'm not aggressive, I catch myself."

The 20-year-old is off to a better start than people not named Kristaps Porzingis expected. He came in with plenty of questions about him after the Knicks took him with the fourth pick in the draft, and he was dubbed a project who needs time to develop. He still needs time to develop, but he has been impressive.

He had a double-double against a front line that featured Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge and enters today's game averaging 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes.

If he hadn't gotten into foul trouble, he might be playing closer to that time and producing those kinds of numbers. Instead he has played only 24 minutes per game.

It was interesting that when Porzingis spoke about aggressiveness, he brought up Russell Westbrook as someone he can follow. The Thunder guard always is attacking.

No one expects him to be Westbrook. They play different positions and besides, few have Westbrook's athleticism and overall desire to win. But if Porzingis can develop that mind-set -- and he has shown he can attack the basket -- it will make the Knicks look even smarter for taking him fourth.

"It's not that I have to prove anything or that I can relax," Porzingis said. "That's the way I should be every day. For example, Russell Westbrook, he never relaxes. He's always super-aggressive. That's the way you have to be. You have to have that mentality every time you step on the floor."

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