GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Imagine everything that Kristaps Porzingis is having thrown at him this season. The Knicks’ 7-3 Latvian rookie not only has to learn to deal with NBA defenses and a grueling travel schedule but must acquaint himself with some unfamiliar sports idioms.
After practice with his Knicks teammates on Monday, Porzingis was asked if he thinks he has “hit a rookie wall.”
“I don’t think so,” he replied. “A couple of bad games, it happens to all of us. Not only rookies. I’m just looking forward to the next game and preparing the best I can. I don’t really know what a rookie wall is.”
Porzingis, an early-season Rookie of the Year candidate, is coming off a difficult road trip in which the Knicks played three games in four nights. In games at Utah, Sacramento and Portland, all tough road arenas, Porzingis averaged 5.7 points and 4.3 rebounds and shot 6-for-25. In the last game of the trip, a 112-110 win over the Trail Blazers, he went scoreless for the first time this season, shooting 0-for-6 and grabbing only three rebounds. He sat out the final 16:39.
Knicks coach Derek Fisher said Porzingis is going through a bumpy stretch.
“People are definitely more aware of the things he was doing that made him effective, but also, there are going to be ups and downs during the course of a season no matter how great the player is,” Fisher said. “You can go to other players around the league and chart their numbers and you’ll find some stretches where their numbers dramatically dip for whatever reason — fatigue, injury, stress, whatever. The great ones usually come back at some point, and I think Kris will be back to his normal levels to what we came to expect soon enough.”
If there is such a thing as a rookie wall, Carmelo Anthony said he encountered it his first day in the NBA.
“The minute you step on that court, everything changes from just the way you sleep; you’ve got to figure out a routine that works,” he said. “You’ve got to work out, you’ve got to train multiple times a day and you’ve got to go out there and perform. So the minute that you step on that court that first day, that’s when everything changed for me.”
Anthony said he has talked to Porzingis about all of this. “I hope he’s not thinking he hit a wall just because of a couple of off days,” Anthony said. “There’s no such thing as a wall.”
Porzingis won’t have much time to rest up before his next test, against another top rookie big man, Karl-Anthony Towns. The Knicks host Towns’ Timberwolves on Wednesday night in the first head-to-head meeting of the two rookie big men.
Said Porzingis: “He’s an all-around player. He can shoot from the outside. He can post up. He has a nice hook shot . . . That’s the most dangerous thing about him — you don’t know what he’s capable of doing. He’s a good rebounder, so it will be a challenge.”