Kristaps Porzingis catapulted himself into the national conversation early last season, and a year ago this week he cemented himself as one of the top rising basketball talents in the NBA by being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, thanks to a flurry of spectacular performances that included a career high scoring effort, blocks in bunches, and an absolute abundance of highlights.
Porzingis’ breathtaking play lasted longer than a week, although his Player of the Week honor was awarded because he averaged 33.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per contest in four games. The Knicks won three of those four games, and the only loss came against a Houston Rockets team that was led by 2017-18 MVP James Harden and would go on to truly challenge the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors during the Western Conference Finals. For what it’s worth, Harden was named the Western Conference Player of the Week the very same week.
For the Knicks, the week started off with a 116-110 victory over the Denver Nuggets, a game in which the 22-year-old Porzingis dropped 38 points on 14-26 shooting (including 4-7 from three), 7 rebounds and 3 blocks, along with 2 assists. Then, after what some might call a down night during a 119-97 loss to the Rockets — Porzingis posted 19 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block — the Unicorn regained his mythical powers in a 120-107 victory over the Phoenix Suns that featured what may have been his highlight of the season.
With about five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Suns small forward Josh Jackson decided to try and eurostep his way around lone defender Enes Kanter on a fast break. Little did Jackson know, he was being hunted by Porzingis, who came up behind Jackson right as he was putting up a contested layup and clobbered the ball into next week. The play was not yet over. Courtney Lee collected the loose ball before it went out of bounds, dribbled up the court and made a cross-court pass to then-starting point guard Jarrett Jack.
Jack quickly bounced it to a sprinting Porzingis, who bounded down the lane, shot into the sky and hammered home a ferocious slam dunk. The crowd, as they say, went wild. Everyone in the arena fainted.
The play was actually nominated for the NBA’s Block of the Year, but an Anthony Davis block wound up winning. Porzingis definitely would have won if the award was for best block/dunk combination.
Porzingis finished the Suns game with 37 points on 13-22 shooting (1 of 2 from three), 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. However, his best performance of the week was yet to come. Two days later, Porzingis led the Knicks to a 108-101 victory over the Indiana Pacers, putting up a career high 40 points on 15-24 shooting (2-4 from three) while adding 8 rebounds and an astounding 6 blocks (his career high is 7). He scored 17 in the fourth quarter alone against the Pacers.
The impressive stretch allowed Porzingis to showcase all of his various abilities, and had Knicks fans showering him with MVP chants that at the time were totally fair. He became the 13th Knicks player to be dubbed Player of the Week since the NBA started handing out the honor in the 1979-80 season, according to basketball-reference.com, joining the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Jeremy Lin, Al Harrington, David Lee, Jamal Crawford, Stephon Marbury, Allan Houston, Kurt Thomas(!), Patrick Ewing, Mark Jackson and Bernard King. Not bad company to be in.
Now let’s enjoy all of the Porzingis highlights from that magical week last season while we eagerly await his return to the hardwood: