They got an old saying down on the Latvian bayou: Fool Kristaps once, shame on you; fool Kristaps twice ... well that just ain't gonna happen. (It sounds better in Latvian, trust me.) Perhaps the most impressive quality of the Knicks' rookie phenom is his steep learning curve. Not only is he quick to diagnose a hole in his game, he has the basketball IQ and freakish athleticism to fix it almost immediately.
Well the time has come for another fix. Our esteemed founder Seth Rosenthal proved prescient indeed with this note on the Knicks' Sunday night loss to the Golden State Warriors:
Watching Kristaps Porzingis get repeatedly worked by Draymond Green was kinda...fun? I just feel so certain he's gonna watch that tape and learn a whole lot about how small/smart teams defend and attack him.
One thing is certain: Kristaps is gonna be watching that tape. He seemed particularly motivated by his rough performance against Green, who lit up the Knicks for 20 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. Per Ian Begley:
"I think I saw just how much better defensively I've got to be.
"I've just got to know who I'm guarding and learn from that.
"If this is where basketball is going, I want to be on the floor in important moments ... so I'll learn from this."
The Baltic Unicorn is probably being a little hard on himself. Kristaps is one of the finest 20-year-old defensive bigs I've ever seen. No rookie in the league carries more responsibility -- New York's starting backcourt consists of two crumbling statues, and Kristaps is tasked with cleaning up their messes. He's tied with Karl-Anthony Towns for the rookie lead in defensive win shares and leads all rookies in blocks. Opponents are shooting 3.9% worse when he is the primary defender -- 5.3% worse from three, 9.9% worse from within six feet. That's good, yo.
Still, he's not exactly wrong to be concerned. Draymond Green may be an extreme example -- an All-Star who leads the league in triple-doubles -- but the NBA is indeed trending toward smaller power forwards. Kristaps might ultimately be destined for the center position, but for the foreseeable future he is going to have to deal with these small-ball 4's.
We've only known Kristaps a short while, but there's no doubt he will put in the work needed to avoid nights like Sunday. The kid hates to lose, and is willing to put in the work needed to succeed. And that, my friends, is why he's going to be a damn superstar.