Carmelo Anthony on Knicks sensation Kristaps Porzingis: ‘Nobody can come between us’

Marc J. Spears
Things have gone well for Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis with the Knicks. (AP)
Things have gone well for Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis with the Knicks. (AP)

Carmelo Anthony has a warning for those who think he won’t mesh with New York Knicks rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis.

“I know what we have as teammates. Nobody can come between us despite what anybody says. Nobody,” Anthony told Yahoo Sports.

Anthony has been the face of the Knicks since being acquired from the Denver Nuggets in 2011. The only other big-name player to perhaps cut into the spotlight with the Knicks was former teammate Amar’e Stoudemire, who never lived up to his full potential in New York because of injuries. Porzingis’ exciting early-season play however has made him increasingly popular with Knicks fans.

When asked if he expects Porzingis to become an NBA star, Anthony told Yahoo Sports: “He can be. This is the first [25] games of the season, but he has the opportunity to do that.”

But it is that opportunity that isn’t always easy. Anthony recalled how Knicks fans now in love with Porzingis booed on draft night when he was selected fourth overall.

“When things are going good, they put you way up there,” Anthony told Yahoo Sports. “When things are going bad, they kick the chair from underneath you. Those are experiences that he is going to have to go through. But if I can be there and be that guy who can grab him up and say everything is going to be all right, I’m going to do that …

“I support him 100 percent. In New York they can run you in the ground with all that attention. I’m there to just let him know that when it’s good, it’s great.”

Porzingis is averaging 13.6 points and 8.4 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per game, and the surprisingly athletic and skilled 7-foot-3, 240-pounder was named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for October-November. The Latvian scored a rookie-high 29 points against the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 17 and recorded 24 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks on Nov. 21 against the Houston Rockets.

“He comes into this league at [20] and can shoot and score and play in the biggest and greatest city in the world. He deserves it,” Anthony told Yahoo Sports about the attention Porzingis is getting.

Porzingis credited Anthony for mentoring him and boosting his offensive game.

“His is making a lot of situations [easier] for me,” Porzingis said. “Because of him I’m getting wide-open looks. He’s great. Playing alongside him, I can just read him and play off of him. When I am open, he is going to hit me. I don’t doubt that.”

Anthony had a stellar rookie season in 2003-04, averaging 21 points per game with the Nuggets. The third overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft challenged LeBron James for the NBA Rookie of the Year award, and yet part of his motivation in taking Porzingis under his wing is because of his experience in Denver.

“I didn’t have anybody to put their arm around me and give me insight on what the league was like,” Anthony told Yahoo Sports.

Kristaps Porzingis possesses a unique blend of length and athletic ability. (Getty)
Kristaps Porzingis possesses a unique blend of length and athletic ability. (Getty)

The Nuggets considered signing veteran forward LaPhonso Ellis to mentor Anthony during his rookie season and had two respected veterans in Marcus Camby and Andre Miller. But Denver didn’t have a player who had made an All-Star appearance. Anthony quickly became the face of the Nuggets as a rookie and led the franchise to its first playoff appearance since 1995.

“The tough part was coming to the NBA and then coming to a franchise and having to be the face. The franchise was automatically given to you,” Anthony told Yahoo Sports.

That wasn’t the only major difference Anthony noted between his first season in Denver and what Porzingis is experiencing now.

“The market wasn’t as big [in Denver],” Anthony told Yahoo Sports. “There weren’t as many media people there every day. Some days, there were one or two people in the locker room.”

Contrary to the perception, sharing the spotlight with a star player is actually nothing new to Anthony.

He and likely future Hall of Famer Allen Iverson were teammates in Denver from 2006-08, and Anthony also played with 2004 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Chauncey Billups in Denver from 2008-11. Stoudemire was a five-time All-Star before joining the Knicks in 2010.

Of the stars Anthony has played with, none brought more media and fan attention than Iverson, the 2001 NBA MVP with an NBA Finals appearance and two All-Star Game MVP awards. Anthony and Iverson co-existed well in Denver and made the franchise a very popular road ticket and television draw. Winning, though, didn’t follow as the Nuggets lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2007 and 2008.

“We used to just sit back in the locker room and the bus and talk about this same situation on how people are going to try to pit us against each other,” Anthony told Yahoo Sports. “They say there is only one ball. But at the end of the day, it was about winning, especially with me and A.I. We always wanted another piece on our team, whether it was a point guard to take A.I. off the ball.”

Porzingis is the shiny new attraction in New York and has rightly earned the early-season accolades, but if the Knicks season takes a downward turn, the rookie likely won’t be the one to take the blame.

“My pressure is still my pressure. That doesn’t change,” Anthony told Yahoo Sports.

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