New York has had it’s rough share of basketball, but D’Angelo Russell and Kristaps Porzingis are here to change it.
Take yourself back to an hour before the 2015 NBA Draft. Think about the feelings you had. Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns would go first. Either Jahlil Okafor or D’Angelo Russell would follow him shortly after at either two or three. Then, the “mystery man” from Latvia would be taken to some team willing to take a shot on a potential star.
Now, fast forward to present day. Kristaps Porzingis stands as the best asset the New York Knicks have, post-Phil Jackson catastrophe. With Carmelo Anthony seemingly on the way out, Porzingis will now hold the pressure of building the Knicks back up to their “mecca” mystique.
The one correct move Phil Jackson made in his Knicks tenure, and he mismanaged it. Now, Porzingis has all the leverage in the world with New York.
D’Angelo Russell has had himself an almost polar opposite start to his career. His two NBA seasons were somewhat underwhelming, well to a Los Angeles Lakers standpoint anyway.
Russell built off of a decent rookie year, averaging 15.6 points on a slightly improved true shooting percentage of 51.8%. Sure, Russell has obvious flaws in his game. His defensive struggles often hurt the Lakers, and his turnovers often come at crucial times.
It’s a major reason why Los Angeles shipped him to Brooklyn. And the reason why the Nets got him at such a “bargain”. Taking on the large contract of Timofey Mozgov seemed to be like a spec of dust, considering Brooklyn added a promising young guard.
Now, the Nets have their future star. Someone to build off. Someone that exudes that swagger the organization failed to bring in their return to Brooklyn (sorry Jay-Z).
Both New York basketball teams are holding gems in their hands. On one set of hands, there will be a smoothing out process with Kristaps Porzingis and the front office. On the next set of hands, Russell will try to prove his star potential is still there.
One star is shining, and the other has a dimming perception to him. But New York tends to bring out the best and the worst out of stars. Sure, Russell has dealt with the nit-picky Los Angeles media, with cameras all around him on and off the court.
But this is Brooklyn. This is New York sports, baby. This is where passion falls just short of insanity, and where love will be lost just as quick as it was won. The Nets may be the “other” New York team, but there is no discrepancy in critiquing.
Kristaps knows the criticisms all too well. Even with his play surpassing expectations from the very start, Porzingis has found himself on the wrong side of critics often. Questions on whether he can be the player to lead the Knicks to an elusive championship arise almost daily.
Questions about what he’ll be after Carmelo Anthony. Questions that just seem silly at this point. For Kristaps Porzingis, the only thing to push him out of New York is himself. Whether he’s had enough with New York or not, that’s going to decide his tenure.
These two young stars have had NBA paths with as many ups and downs as one could imagine, but it lead them both to New York. And both of them in delicate situations with their respective teams.