Kurt Rambis, my man. I was feeling pretty good about you when I woke up this morning. Loved your rotations in Friday night's win over the Magic. Loved the way you paired Jerian Grant with Kristaps Porzingis on multiple occasions. The squad looked crisp and efficient. Everything was rosy.
And then I saw this quote, courtesy of Stefan Bondy:
"He is talented. There's no getting around that," Rambis said. "At some point he is going to be phenomenal but he is still going through a growth process. There are shots out there that he takes that I flat out don't like. We are working on his decision-making in those situations.
"It is very typical of young players. That is part of the process they go through. We are still working and encouraging him to be more productive whether it is the elbow or the block."
"I think we all forget how young he is just because of his height. He's learned a lot and grown a lot and he's going to continue to get better for the rest of this season and the rest of his career. But playing inside and figuring out how to get his shot off and how to play against different people who do different things defensively is what's going to be much better for him going forward."
First things first: Rambis isn't 100-percent wrong here. Kristaps does take some bad shots, and he should eventually learn how to better leverage his height inside. But this seems an unnecessarily harsh (and public) criticism coming mere hours after a spectacular all-around game from the rookie: 18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, no turnovers, 2 steals, 2 blocks, team-high +12 on/off rating.
... to tell him that. No reason to say it publicly, IMO. Same w Jimmer's struggles in practice the other day. Just odd that he's so candid.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) February 27, 2016
Kristaps is a humble kid, so it wasn't as if Rambis needed to keep his ego in check. It was almost as if the coach was waiting for Kristaps to shoot an oh-fer from beyond the arc -- Kristaps was 0-3 against Orlando -- so he could call out the rookie's perimeter game. Perhaps he should keep in mind that there's more to playing on the perimeter than just shooting threes.
One look at the lanky Latvian mamba is enough to know he is going to have his work cut out for himself in the post. He's tall, yes, but he's also skinny, with a high center of gravity. Smaller, stronger players can easily push him away from the basket. That will change as he gains experience and puts on weight. Until then, it's not the crippling weakness the coach makes it out to be.
Kristaps is already one of the league's better roll men, averaging 1.09 points per possession on 125 pick-and-roll plays, per NBA Stats. That ranks in the 67.7th percentile among qualified players. Compare that to teammate Arron Afflalo, one of the league's most efficient post scorers. Afflalo ranks in the 92.6th percentile -- Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard are the only two players ahead of him with at least 100 post possessions (Afflalo has 119). How many points does Afflalo average per possession? Try 1.07. A Porzingis pick-and-roll will nab you more points on average than a post-up from just about any Knicks player:
|Play||# of Possessions||Points per Possession|
|Robin Lopez post-up||175||0.90|
And Kristaps is doing this while playing alongside some fairly crappy pick-and-roll point guards. Imagine what he will accomplish once the front office finds a quality floor general ... if they don't shackle him to the post, that is.
Rambis is notorious among NBA observers for his stint as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and his biggest sin was trying to force Kevin Love to play inside when that wasn't his game. Kristaps Porzingis has far more potential than Love; he may yet grow into a low-post beast in the coming years. But there's no reason to force it on him right from the get-go. Bashing a rookie of such quality for his weaknesses instead of playing to his strengths isn't putting him, or the team, in a position to succeed.