NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, December 13, 2015, 6:40 PM
PORTLAND – Call it a rookie wall. A physical threshold. An empty tank.
However you define the point of fatigue, Kristaps Porzingis slammed into it during a three-game road trip that played out mostly on the bench for the Latvian.
“I guess my legs weren’t feeling as good as they should feel,” he said.
It makes sense considering Porzingis – as well as the vast majority of those just drafted — have never played this many games in such a short period of time. For Porzingis, the adjustment may be even more dramatic and taxing than a player out of college.
The 20-year-old played just 50 games last season in Spain over nearly seven months. According to basketball-reference.com, he totaled 1,072 minutes last season — a mark that he’s already about 2/3 of the way reaching in the NBA.
“I would say it wears you down being on the road, playing game after game,” Porzingis said. “But I think I’ve prepared myself, I did the recovery. Obviously you can still feel your legs are not 100 percent. But I try to at the best shape possible. But it’s tough.”
Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis sees a slip in his production and spends the entire fourth quarter of Saturday’s win in Portland on the bench.
The three games were ugly for Porzingis, who left the Garden on such a high last week after dueling Dirk Nowitzki in a fourth-quarter explosion, and who returns for Wednesday’s game against the T-Wolves searching for answers to a slump.
His pop and spring had disappeared in Saturday’s victory over the Trailblazers, as coach Derek Fisher left his forward on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. Porzingis was dunked on by Damian Lillard. He was nearly posterized Mo Harkless.
The rookie went scoreless for the first time in his NBA career, finishing a road trip with averages of 5.7 points and 4.3 rebounds on 24 percent shooting.
“Every player goes through it in our league in different levels. I think a number of our players went through it (Saturday) being the third game in four nights and the intensity of our schedule. So, for sure, rookies are going to feel it the most,” Fisher said. “They’re accustomed to playing the number of games we’ve played already through the course of the entire course of the college season. Or international play, one or two games a week is nowhere near what this is. But he’ll be able to come back and give us the energy. He helps us even when he’s not jumping off the charts and so we won’t make a habit of him not being on the floor. We just did what we thought was best (Saturday).”
Porzingis has been the toast of the Garden this season, but is starting to show signs of fatigue.
There’s also the nightly adjustments to Porzingis, the increased pressure from the defenses responding to his early success. He felt it Saturday from Portland forward Noah Vonleh.
“I think (Vonleh) was playing tighter on me, was closer to me – was really paying attention to what I was doing,” Porzingis said. “That’s how teams are going to play me now if I keep making shots. Obviously today, I was missing. But that’s the defense I’m going to have to play against.”
On Wednesday, Porzingis will again have the marquee matchup against fellow Rookie of the Year candidate Karl-Anthony Towns. Following his previous dud in Utah last week, Porzingis repeated a motivational quote from his oldest brother and mentor, Janis, about the importance of forgetting struggles.
“Champions have short memories,” he said.
But now he’s searching for something else. A cure for exhaustion.
“I’ve got to find a quote now to bounce back finally. I’ve been having bad games,” he said. “But yeah, that’s my mentality again. I have some time off.”
He needs it.