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So far, so good for Kristaps Porzingis, both on and off the court

Kristaps Porzingis of Latvia celebrates after being drafted

Kristaps Porzingis of Latvia celebrates after being drafted with the No. 4 overall pick by the New York Knicks during the 2015 NBA Draft at Barclays Center on June 25, 2015. Credit: Mike Stobe

LAS VEGAS - Kristaps Porzingis looks like the biggest kid at NBA summer league. He's 19, doesn't have facial hair and wears his backpack straps over both shoulders like a student walking around school.

But Porzingis seems unfazed by fans and members of the media who believe the Knicks made a mistake by using the No. 4 pick on him.

The Latvian big man, who is listed at 7-3 on the Knicks' summer league roster, played in his first game Saturday and wasn't timid on or off the court.

He scored 12 points and blocked two shots in a 78-73 win over the Spurs, earning cheers and some screams of "Porzingis!" when he was at the foul line. Afterward, he was at ease with the media, joking and showing the kind of personality that should help him deal with the pressures of playing in New York.

"It's been a little crazy," he said. "Whenever I walk out of the hotel, there's people that recognize me that want to take pictures and all that. I like the attention. The fans are really nice. They're not so nice on social media, but on the street, the people are really nice."

Porzingis, who played in Spain last season, isn't letting the weight of the expectations he shoulders on his 233-pound frame bother him. He's embracing his newfound celebrity.

"I can't be 7-3 and just hiding into myself," he said. "I have to be an open person and be nice with the fans. I love people. I think that's something that will help me in the long run, just being a good person to the fans."

The fans will love him if he lives up to his potential. The fears are he'll be another Frederic Weis or Darko Milicic. Porzingis is out to prove he's not another "soft" European.

He already has shown more of a personality and thicker skin than former Knick Andrea Bargnani, who has agreed to a deal with the Nets. The Knicks believe he is too athletic and skilled not to succeed on this level and that he has the right mental makeup. They're not alone.

"Fantastic kid," said an NBA scout who has scouted Porzingis extensively and watched his summer-league debut. "He's serious-minded, focused. They got a player. He's not a sexy name, but you will appreciate him because not many kids play harder than him day in and day out and can shoot the ball consistently from the perimeter. He's highly skilled. You just got to give him time."

It's only one summer league game -- and he faced many players who won't be in the NBA -- but Porzingis was solid. He played aggressively, didn't let himself get pushed around, made some good passes, took seven free throws and had his defense lauded by Derek Fisher.

He played only 18 minutes because of a hip injury that has hampered him. Fisher said his time will increase Monday when the Knicks play the Lakers.

It's too soon to project whether he will start for the Knicks at power forward in the fall. He needs to prove himself against real NBA competition. But the Knicks hope he can contribute right away. They envision Porzingis stretching the floor and benefiting from all the attention Carmelo Anthony will receive.

"He'll have the ability to do more things offensively over time," Fisher said. "I thought in the spaces where we had the chance to be aggressive, we were aggressive. He got to the foul line. He's not afraid of contact. For a guy his size, that's really good to see."

Notes & quotes: Second-year forward Cleanthony Early had a good offensive game, scoring 18 points in 25 minutes, but Fisher said Early needs to be as aggressive defensively if he wants minutes for the real team. "Where he's going to really earn his living is using his athleticism and his aggression on the defensive end and be a shutdown guy," he said. "I thought Kyle Anderson got away from him a little bit. That's the end of the floor where he's going to have to make a difference to get minutes in the regular season."

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