Amid a nasty political climate, winter’s impending doom and gloom, the reification of the league’s first Hedge Fund Basketball Team, and the sadness behind one of the NBA’s all-time greats shooting less than 30 percent in the months before his retirement, it’s nice to get something like this.
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It’s nice to get steely-faced, bad ass dude Kristaps Porzingis to let down his guard a bit, as Dirk Nowitzki takes his turn in welcoming him to the NBA. Watch:
New York lost by a 104-97, but not before the Knicks rookie did this:
And the two versatile big men did this:
"He's for real," Nowitzki added. "He's long, he's athletic, he can put the ball on the floor. He's the complete package."
"He's probably way ahead of the curve compared to when I was 20," Nowitzki said. "I was scared to death out there competing against some of my heroes that first year. He's way better than I was at 20. The comparison is probably unfair to him."
When you nail 13 of 17 shots on your way to 28 points, as Porzingis did on Monday, “the complete package” is probably the best way to describe you.
But Dirk Nowitzki, calling comparisons to the future Hall of Famer “unfair to” you, Kristaps Porzingis?
Well, it kind of is.
The lockout-shortened 1999 season was Dirk’s first in the NBA, at age 20, and it was also his No-Good Very Bad Year. Save for a late-June BBQ-outing at Don Nelson’s house prior to the lockout hitting on July 1 (where Dirk was outmuscled and dominated in a one-on-one pickup game, in front of heaps of Mavericks staff, by burly 6-7 veteran forward Gary Trent), the Mavs had no contact with their future legend for just over six months with Nowitzki after the league locked out its players.
Not only did that cost Dirk a proper training camp, but an entire summer for the Mavericks and Nowitzki to develop and discover just how to use this 7-foot prospect. It’s true that Nelson was the absolute best coach (with Denver’s Mike D’Antoni, perhaps, coming in second) to lord over Dirk’s rookie year, but Nowitzki’s first season struggles at age 20 were real.
He was usually the youngest guy on the court, hesitant, turnover-prone, and his three-point stroke had yet to fully form. Nowitzki rebounded poorly for yet another terrible Dallas team, also sweating through Steve Nash’s injury-plagued first season with the franchise.
Both would blossom and go on to be an All-Star tandem, but Nowitzki’s 14.5-point (per 36 minutes, on 40 percent shooting) and 6.5-rebound (per-36) stats aren’t as impressive as Porzingis’ per-36 marks of 18.8 points, 11.4 boards, and 2.5 blocks. Furthermore, KP is a few months younger than Dirk was at this point in their careers (even with the delay of the 1998-99 lockout), and Porzingis isn’t hurting his team by playing hefty minutes as a starter. Dirk, for most of 1999, held the Mavs back as he developed in full public view.
This isn’t to say Porzingis will have a better career than Dirk. Kristaps Porzingis, if he continues apace, won’t have a similar career to Dirk Nowitzki at all. Because these are two very different players, in a lot of ways.
We thought we were done comparing every tall white dude from Europe to another, but Kristaps Porzingis will never be able to approximate the quickness and timing of Nowitzki’s high-arching approach from long range, just as Nowitzki has never done some of the sorts of things (the massive put-back dunks, the nimble drives from 25-feet away, the blocks) Porzingis has already done just 22 games into his career.
Just as Dirk Nowitzki turned out to be a completely different player than Larry Bird, perhaps categorized as some unholy mix of Ray Allen and Bob McAdoo, Porzingis is turning out to be some Chris Bosh/Amar’e Stoudemire hybrid. With three-point range, as everyone seems to have these days.
(And, really, if you want to go overseas with this one, compare Porzingis to an All-Star version of Vladimir Stepania. Stepania was a killer athlete who appeared to have a great stroke from the outside, yet he didn’t have the footwork and touch enough to put it all together, as Kristaps already has.)
Or, if the kids want someone a little more recent, scope this out:
The top two contenders for rookie of the year, per 100 possessions. This is weird. pic.twitter.com/MhCfiqP6N5
— Adi Joseph (@AdiJoseph) December 8, 2015
If Knick fans want the next Dirk Nowitzki, then they should pray for one thing: Kristaps Porzingis entering the World’s Most Famous Arena in 2032 after having played his entire 17-year career with the same franchise, and dropping 25 points on 9-18 shooting, with no turnovers, in his team’s win. That’s what the first Dirk Nowitzki pulled off on Monday night.
Until then, New York will just have to warm itself with having the first Kristaps Porzingis.
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