PHIL Jackson is feeling pretty good these days.
The New York Knicks team president recently talked with the New York Post about Kristaps Porzingis, their rookie from Latvia whose solid performance has impressed the team’s fickle fans, some of whom booed him when as overall No.4 pick in the 2015 NBA Rookie Draft.
"There's a magical element to this young man that's caught the admiration of the fanbase and around the country who follow the Knicks," Jackson in an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time) about one of the Knicks’ bright spots and a possible heir apparent to franchise star Carmelo Anthony.
"He's got the right temperament, right attitude, carries himself well. He's not getting the calls, (but) he doesn't protest or get upset."
In his first 18 games, the 20-year old Porzingis has posted 13.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, numbers that have exceeded expectations in what was supposed to be a slow learning process.
The Zen Master described his prized protégé as “very calm" and possessing “a balanced nature about his game," Jackson said in the article.
"It's a learning process. You see the growth game to game. That's really the ticket you look at. You watch a young player developing, learning, how he's learning to deal with the physical nature of the game, speed of our game.”
When a video of Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard dunking on Porzingis went viral, the ten-time NBA champion coach was quick to shrug it off as part of the young big man’s growing pains.
"It's ridiculous. Everyone gets dunked on in the NBA. He laughed it off. He's a lightning rod to our fan corps. You can't hide him. He stands out in the crowd."
Last season, the Knicks finished the season with a horrible 17-65 win-loss record. The team already has nine victories in its first 19 games and is contending for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With a healthy Anthony and a surprising Porzingis plus veterans Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez gives the team a solid core.
"It's not me, it's all on (Porzingis)," said Jackson. "This is the young man that's done it. You sit in those spots (in the draft) and analyze what you can do and have control of. … We made a choice, a logical choice, and not having seen him but once in person, just in a shooting exhibition, I felt comfortable making the choice. I'm just happy the personality, drive and work ethic goes along with that talent level.