The big guy for the Knicks, Kristaps Porzingis, is even bigger right now than Aaron Judge, the biggest guy in town this year. It’s not just because Porzingis has the kind of size advantage he does on All Rise. And Giancarlo Stanton, too, for that matter.
Judge and Stanton won’t officially be in season until they report to Tampa in a couple of months for spring training. With three weeks to go, the pro football season in New York and Jersey is already over; Eli Manning was once the biggest star in town, but now he gets cheered the way he was cheered last Sunday just for showing up. It means that Porzingis is the biggest star we have these days. Until balls start flying out of George Steinbrenner Field like golf balls it feels, more than somewhat, as if he has the stage to himself.
So now we see if he continues to do as much with it at the Garden as he has done so far this season. We see at the same time if he can convince fans at the Garden that he and his team might actually be built to last, so Knicks fans don’t fear the worst every time Porzingis leaves another game early with a sore leg.
To Knicks fans, he has become the most important player since the young Patrick Ewing. And has quickly become more popular than Patrick ever was in the 1980s, just because the truth about the great Patrick Ewing is that he wasn’t fully appreciated here until he was gone, at which point everybody got a good look at what the Knicks looked like without him.
Kristaps Porzingis comes along at a time when the Knicks have won exactly one playoff series since 2000.
There had been bad times at the Garden, of course, before Ewing got there from Georgetown. There was the night when Marv Albert was famously announcing the starting lineup for a game against the Celtics, the Celtics with Bird and McHale and Parish and the Knicks with Ken Bannister and Bob Thornton matching up against them, when Marv paused and said, “Who chose up these sides?”
But Porzingis comes along at a time when the Knicks have won exactly one playoff series since 2000 – one – and lost as many games as anybody in the league in that time. It is why Porzingis, this quickly and this big, does feel this important, and why Knicks fans root for him as hard as they do, as he tries to do what Pat Ewing did when he finally got with Pat Riley:
Make the Knicks matter again.
Porzingis has the stage to himself in New York and the stage to himself in basketball New York now that Carmelo Anthony, in town with the Thunder on Saturday night as KP sat out with a sore knee, finally plays for somebody else. From the time Phil Jackson took the Latvian kid with the fourth pick in the draft, it was abundantly clear that he wanted New York and the Garden and the stage. And so far this season, we have seen what he’s done with it when healthy: More than 25 points a game and more than six rebounds.
This is not to say that this will be anything close to the kind of rising that was built around All Rise Judge during the last baseball season, when the Yankees came as close as they did to the World Series. But what you remember from the way the season ended at Yankee Stadium, when we all left that place after Game 5 of the American League Championship Series feeling as if the Yankees really were going back to the Series after eight years away, was how important it was to Yankee fans that their team mattered again this way; how it was almost a tangible and kinetic thing how much they wanted the Yankees to come back this way.
Knicks fans have waited much longer to come back. The last Knicks team that looked like a real title contender was when a wounded Knicks team, with a wounded Ewing still at center, somehow made it to Game 6 of the 2000 Eastern Conference finals against the Pacers. After that – and with the notable exception of the year when Mike Woodson coached them to 54 wins and an Atlantic Division title and Carmelo finished third in the MVP voting – the Knicks have had nearly two decades when the Garden was mostly just a mecca of bad ownership and management and bad basketball.
To Knicks fans, Kristaps Porzingis has become the most important player since Patrick Ewing.
“Only now,” said Larry Brown, who showed up briefly to coach the Knicks in this era, “they’ve got this kid to love.”
They ask the kid to bring them back, at least to the playoffs this season. They hope for him to stay healthy. He played 72 games as a rookie and played 66 last season. But the thing to remember about him, once you see a 7-3 kid running the court the way he does and shooting the way he does and doing the basketball things he does, is that he doesn’t turn 23 until next August.
It is early for him. Early for the Knicks. He is, let’s face it, being asked to carry an awful lot in just his third year in the league. Nobody is saying he is going to have the kind of year that Judge just had. Nobody would ever compare the history of Judge’s franchise to the history of Porzingis’.
He tries to make the Knicks matter again. It’s why he matters the way he does to his fans. Judge played his way to the skyline this season. Stanton will try to do the same thing next season. Suddenly it is a time for big guys in New York. Right now, this minute, at a time when you imagine him posting up the tree at Rockefeller Plaza, nobody feels bigger than No. 6 of the Knicks.
Rodgers is back, so Yanks are Evil again? & Giant reboot . . .
– Boy, you can’t have more fun than the Giants have had this season with defensive backs, can you?
Welcome to the rest of Bryce Petty’s Jets career, whatever that career is actually going to be with the Jets.
– I don’t know if Aaron Rodgers is going to win out.
Aaron Rodgers has always had a flair for the dramatic.
(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
The first of his 3-game shot with the Packers begins today, against the Panthers, on the road.
Then come the Vikings.
But if Rodgers — who you have to say has always had a flair for the dramatic — does get the Packers to 10-6, I believe 10-6 gets them into the tournament.
Oh, baby, they just announced another season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
– There is one immutable fact of baseball life in the big, bad city:
Every time the Yankees make the kind of deal they did for Stanton you get the idea that the rest of the American League isn’t even going to want to play the season.
It was that way when they got A-Rod, it’s that way now.
But every time you read or hear about how order has been restored to the Evil Empire sports universe with the Yankees, you think it’s still the ’50s and ’60s.
The Yankees absolutely have won five World Series since 1996.
It’s as many NBA titles as the Spurs have won in roughly the same era, and the same number of Super Bowls the Patriots have won in this century.
By the way?
The Red Sox have won three World Series since ’04.
The San Francisco Giants three since 2010.
– Maybe it’s time for the football Giants to think about going outside the organization for their new general manager the way they did with George Young, when the modern history of the team changed forever.
No quick fix then, no quick fix now.
What has so often seemed like a rather dreary NFL season has a chance to get a whole lot better over the last three games of the regular season.
If it doesn’t, I say we just go ahead and blame it on anthem protests, anyway.
– Speaking of dreary seasons:
It’s amazing how Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, by bringing their rivalry back in such a big way, provided such amazing cover for the rest of the sport.
In case you missed it, one of Donald Trump’s judicial nominees for the U.S. District Court appointment was asked a question at his confirmation hearing the other day about a “motion in limine,” which basically involves rules about evidence.
The guy, Matthew Spencer Peterson, then made kids at the National Spelling Bee look more prepared when he not only couldn’t answer the question, but then said, “My experience is not in litigation.”
There’s your tax dollars at work right there.
You get the idea that they find some of these guys in the judicial version of “The Voice.”
When Omarosa was asked to leave the White House the other day, she probably tried to buy herself some time by asking if they could wait until the next commercial break.
– It will be some kind of footnote in a few weeks, but the there was a great big chunk of the current NFL season when the Jets were really fun to watch, at least before the fourth quarter.
The season in the NFC was altered the moment Rodgers got hurt against the Vikings.
Then Case Keenum, who started the year as a backup quarterback with the Vikings, became such a huge story of the same NFC season.
Just not any bigger than Carson Wentz, who had made such a powerful MVP case for himself until his knee exploded last Sunday against the Rams.
And around all this drama with quarterbacks, the MVP will end up being a 40-year-old quarterback:
Touchdown Tom Brady.
We are reminded, week after week, game after game, how important the position is, and how fragile it is.
And Bill Belichick was so worried about all that that he traded away Brady’s backup in the middle of this season.
– LaVar Ball keeps saying it’s all about the kids.
And then you saw him at the Garden the other night, seated in the front row, and it was the old man who looked happier than a kid on Christmas morning.
Now LaVar’s genius has taken the careers of his two youngest sons to Lithuania.
If that doesn’t work out, the two of them are next going to look for a game on the moon.