LAS VEGAS - Kristaps Porzingis got the ball at the top, well beyond the three-point line, and did what came naturally. The rookie launched a long three-pointer.
The 19-year-old Latvian big man, whom the Knicks are listing at 7-3, displayed the confidence to take that shot in his first NBA summer league game Saturday. He also showed glimpses of what he can do for the Knicks, especially when he gets stronger and more comfortable with the NBA game.
Porzingis played aggressively on both ends of the floor and looked very poised in his summer league debut. It's a long way from legitimate NBA competition, but he raised more eyebrows than red flags.
Porzingis started at center and finished with 12 points, three rebounds and two blocks in 181/2 minutes, showing no signs of a hip injury that had been hampering him and helping the Knicks to a 78-73 win over the Spurs at Thomas & Mack Center.
Porzingis shot 3-for-5 and was 6-for-7 from the foul line. His long three-pointer didn't drop, but he was fouled.
"I played physical," he said. "I proved to maybe some of the people that thought I was soft or whatever that I can get physical. I was just playing hard. It wasn't my greatest game. But I played OK."
The Knicks have touted his overall game since selecting him with the fourth overall pick in the NBA Draft last month.
He can shoot, pass, use his length to block or alter shots, and run the floor. All of that was on display in this game, including a nice back-door bounce pass to fellow rookie Jerian Grant (12 points, three assists, three turnovers) that led to two free throws in the third quarter.
Porzingis is very lean -- he's listed at 233 pounds -- and it affected his ability to get any sort of position. But he didn't back down.
In the fourth quarter, he hit an off-balance shot in the lane on a busted play. It didn't look good when he shot it, but Porzingis followed it and would have been there to put it back had it not fallen.
"He's aggressive," coach Derek Fisher said. "He doesn't look physically overpowering, but he plays a strong game. He's not afraid to go in there and mix it up."
It was an important game for Porzingis to show he has the maturity and mental toughness he will need to succeed in New York.
Porzingis, who was booed when the Knicks picked him on draft night, was cheered Saturday whenever he did anything -- including getting off the bench to re-enter the game.
"Yeah, that's the opposite of what I heard on draft night, so it was nice to hear some cheers out there," he said. "Finally they saw me play, so some of those booing fans are cheering for me now."
Like all rookies, Porzingis is a work in progress. The Knicks just hope they don't have to wait too long for him to be a regular contributor. It was a good sign that Porzingis, who played in Spain last season, wasn't hesitant or nervous.
"Actually, I was really calm," he said. "At one moment, I caught myself, I was thinking about the game, I caught myself, a little nervous. I was like, 'Chill out.' And then I just was calm. I went out there and played like I play."
Fisher might have been most impressed with Porzingis defensively.
"He has the potential to be really special on the defensive end," he said. "There are some things that he recognized and made adjustments on, supporting his teammates, switching out on smaller [opponents], using his length to protect the basket. That's something that we're going to be really excited about as we go forward."
Notes & quotes: Lou Amundson is returning on a one-year, $1.65-million contract, agent Mark Bartelstein said. Amundson averaged 6.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in 41 games for the Knicks last season. The Knicks have 11 players with guaranteed contracts. Langston Galloway has a partial guarantee, but he's expected to be on the 15-man roster . . . Guard Alexey Shved remains on the Knicks' radar. He's also receiving interest overseas . . . The Knicks have the $2.8-million room exception and minimum salaries to sign free agents.
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