As Lakers fans and media surveyed the wreck of the Staples Center in the wake of Sunday night’s devastating attack from the Latvian Galactus, a.k.a. Kristaps Porzingis, a HOT TAKE meltdown of epic proportions seemed inevitable. After all, the franchise exists in a bubble of hysteria very much like what we experience with our own New York Knicks. This was Porzingis’ first game against the Lakers at the Staples Center — he was sick last season — and the kid passed over in favor of D’Angelo Russell on Draft night posted an absurd 26 points, 12 rebounds and 7 blocks in a New York victory.
As a Knicks fan I can certainly empathize with a fanbase facing an onslaught of “what if” thinkpieces. On the other hand, this report from Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding is just too delicious to pass up. Unlike the Sixers, who were rebuffed by Kristaps’ people when they asked for a workout, the Lakers got to host Team Kristaps for a private session. The result was something out of a Knicks supporter's dystopian fan fiction, featuring a front office completely up its own ass, drunk on old-school notions of toughness:
[Lakers GM Mitch] Kupchak structured Porzingis' private Lakers workout as essentially a challenge of his manhood rather than a validation of his gifts.
In doing so, the Lakers lost sight of how truly unique this 7'3" player could be, with skills at a size already forcing the NBA to adjust to him rather than vice versa.
The Lakers, though, wanted to test Porzingis' physicality, and especially his "bigness," in that workout. They overvalued Porzingis' need to prove he could play in the low post and wrongly equated his shaky stamina with his overall NBA readiness.
The Lakers put legendary large, awkward goon Mark Madsen on Porzingis to push him around, which is fine if you want to test a kid’s ability to survive encounters with large, awkward goons. But it’s the comment from former head coach Byron Scott, one of the most reviled figures in recent Lakers history, that makes this encounter truly magical:
Then-Lakers head coach Byron Scott, whose outdated mindsets have been well documented, even joked with Lakers staffers after watching Porzingis wilt with exhaustion that Scott had better get a contract extension if the club decided to draft Porzingis and wait for him to grow up.
SPOILER: Scott did not get that contract extension. Somebody should send him this footage.
What truly amazes me about this story is not that the Lakers’ brass overlooked Porzingis, but that the Knicks did not. Nobody loves wax philosophical on the needs of tough, old-school big man play that Phil Jackson & Co. Yet when the time came they made the right choice. Maybe part of that was luck — the luck of Philly choosing traditional big man Jahlil Okafor at No. 3 — but whatever. Kristaps doesn’t play for the Lakers, or the Sixers. He plays for the Knicks.
Let me repeat: Kristaps Porzingis plays for the Knicks. It really is wonderful, isn’t it?