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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

Dirk Nowitzki says Kristaps Porzingis already had all tools

The Mavericks big man believes the Knicks prodigy is the real deal.

Kristaps Porzingis defends against Dirk Nowitzki on Jan.

Kristaps Porzingis defends against Dirk Nowitzki on Jan. 25, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Tony Gutierrez

Dirk Nowitzki takes no credit for Kristaps Porzingis’ record-setting start this season.

The two finally worked out together over the summer, and Porzingis said he asked Nowitzki “as many questions as I could.” But Nowitzki downplayed what he did. The best European NBA player said Porzingis already had all the tools, and he called the 7-3 forward “the real deal.”

“I really don’t think I taught him anything,” Nowitzki said in an email through the Mavericks. “We just shot around, did shooting competitions and worked out together. He’s a great dude.”

Nowitzki and Porzingis had talked about working out together in the past, but it didn’t happen until the two played in the NBA Africa Game 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. They played some shooting games that Porzingis said he won.

“We had a couple of days together and I asked as many questions as I could,” he said. “I tried to get as much information as I could from him in our couple of workouts together.”

Nowitzki offered to help his fellow European when Porzingis was a rookie. Nowitzki, who is from Germany, gave the Latvian his phone number and told him to call if he needed any help or had any questions.

They tried to get together after Porzingis’ rookie season, but their schedules never matched up. Both played for the World Team in the Africa Game this past summer, making a tutoring session possible.

Nowitzki is one of the players Porzingis has looked up to and the player he’s been compared to the most because of his size, ability to shoot and background. Nowitzki has said he thinks Porzingis is further along than he was at this stage of his career.

Porzingis worked on his strength during the offseason, and it shows. He has been able to handle different types of defenders and more double-teams than ever before, and he became the first Knick to score 300 points in the team’s first 10 games of the season. He added 34 to that on Saturday night, scoring at least 30 for the eighth time in 11 games.

“He works extremely hard,” Nowitzki said. “He is so long and his arms are so long. He can shoot from deep easily and can move. He is the real deal.”

NO TANKS

The Knicks are rebuilding, not tanking.

Kristaps Porzingis is trying to lead them to the playoffs. Fans want to see more of Willy Hernangomez and Damyean Dotson. But Jeff Hornacek is going with the players who give him the best chance to win at this point, and he has management’s support.

It’s never good to create a losing culture to get a higher draft pick. The Knicks, at this point, are trying to find that balance of winning while still developing some young players.

Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. — young, cornerstone players — lead the team in minutes. But rookie Frank Ntilikina is getting crunch-time minutes and helping the Knicks with his defense and ability to run a team.

“We don’t want to be good in the future. We want to be good right now,” Ntilikina said. “We want to grow up right now. I think that’s what’s exciting every day. At practice every day, at the game, we want to be good right now. We just take this like a challenge and are so into it.”

ROUGH STARTS

The Cavaliers began the weekend 5-7 and the Thunder 4-7. Both teams already have had to resort to team meetings to “clear the air” and “make sure everyone is on the same page” — the usual clichés for these overhyped private talks.

The truth is the Cavaliers are the oldest team in the league and are lacking a second scorer since they traded Kyrie Irving. Isaiah Thomas is that guy, but he’s out until at least January with a hip issue. They also need rebounding help with Tristan Thompson out.

The Thunder is still finding itself after adding two perennial All-Stars, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, and trying to mesh their skills with league MVP Russell Westbrook. Three alpha-males all needing the ball — they need more time.

STILL CHASING MIKE

During the week, LeBron James matched idol Michael Jordan in regular-season games played at 1,072. James’ teams had 10 more wins than Jordan’s. James had more than 1,900 more assists and 1,100 more rebounds but Jordan had more than 3,000 more points than James.

In the all-important rings race, Jordan remains up 6-3. That doesn’t seem likely to change this season.

KANTER BLACKED OUT IN HIS NATIVE TURKEY

Knicks center Enes Kanter said his games cannot be seen in his native Turkey, and he believes it’s because of how vocal he’s been in his opposition to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kanter said it was the same last season when he was with Oklahoma City.

“They were showing all 29 [teams] in Turkey but no OKC games because of all the politics,” Kanter said. “Now they are showing every other game — no Knicks. Just because the president is crazy. It’s that crazy, bro. It’s just sad. Last year I saw all those people on social media, they were saying we want to watch [Russell Westbrook] but they can’t watch because of me. Now they want to watch Kristaps, all the other guys, they cannot watch just because of me.”

After last season, Kanter had his passport revoked and was detained by airport officials in Romania. The Turkish government also issued a warrant for his arrest. He has no contact with his parents in Turkey and plans to become a United States citizen.

“I just want to let the whole world know how crazy things are right now,” Kanter said. “It’s an NBA game, man. Just let the people watch. Are you that crazy? That’s nuts.”

DONOVAN: NOAH’S ALL ABOUT WINNING

Joakim Noah has completed his 20-game suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy and can make his season debut Monday night against the Cavaliers. But it won’t be easy for him to get minutes the way Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn have manned the center position.

After signing a four-year, $72-million deal, Noah played 46 games last season, required two surgeries and was suspended for taking an over-the-counter banned supplement to help his rehab from injuries.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan, Noah’s coach at the University of Florida, offered some perspective on his disappointing first season as a Knick.

“I think it really bothered him deeply that he didn’t get himself healthy,” said Donovan, who’s from Rockville Centre. “He’s all about winning. He’s a total team guy. He’s unselfish, he’s a leader. But when you’re in the position physically he was in last year, even talking to him after our game in New York [last year], I know he was frustrated with the fact that he couldn’t help his team.

“He’s put a lot of work in this summer to get himself healthy and try to contribute to the best of his ability.”

Noah has been able to practice with the team but hasn’t been allowed to attend games.

FAST BREAKS

* Kristaps Porzingis reportedly received a write-in vote for the NYC mayoral ballot.

* DeMarcus Cousins Anthony Davis have a chance to become the first teammates in NBA history to average at least 25 points and 10 rebounds each. That’s impressive at a time when the NBA is playing small, but that feat will mean little if the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs.

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