The New York Knicks made one of the surprise moves of the 2015 NBA Draft by picking 19-year-old Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis.
The NBA world is enthralled with the potential of the 7-foot-3 Porzingis: He moves like a small forward and can shoot the three-pointer, but he has the length and defensive potential of a shot-altering center.
While he’s considered a long-term project and doesn’t figure to make a huge impact right away, the Knicks are still hoping he can develop early enough to earn playing time and get some experience his rookie season.
Porzingis has evidently put the same pressure on himself. At the Knicks’ instruction, he’s gone through an intense off-season training regimen that’s helped him put on 11 pounds, and he’s apparently working on improving his own athleticism.
At a press conference Friday morning, Knicks GM Steve Mills told reporters that Porzingis has been watching film of Usain Bolt this summer to improve his running form:
Steve Mills says Kristaps Porzingis was watching film of Usain Bolt to improve his running technique.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) September 25, 2015
It also sounds as if Porzingis decided to do this by himself:
Mills said he walked in while Porzingis was in the cold tub. Found KP randomly watching video of Usain Bolt's running techniques
— Chris Herring (@Herring_NBA) September 25, 2015
It’s interesting that Porzingis is taking this upon himself. Knicks president Phil Jackson made waves during the summer when he told Charley Rosen that he was slightly worried that Porzingis’ massive height could be a problem athletically, comparing him to former NBA player Shawn Bradley, a 7-foot-6 big man who didn’t live up to expectations.
Jackson speculated that Porzingis might be so tall and long that he’ll struggle to ever have the proper base strength to handle stouter big men in the NBA.
Porzingis rebutted those comments, saying, “I’m not Shawn Bradley.”
Obviously, strength and speed are two different things, but it’s curious that Porzingis would seemingly take it into his own hands to improve his athletic gifts. Bolt is unlike many other sprinters in that he’s 6-foot-5. While there’s a ten-inch difference between Porzingis and Bolt, Porzingis could learn a thing or two from a tall sprinter.
If Knicks coach Derek Fisher is to be believed, Knicks fans should be relieved that Porzingis seems intent on working hard:
Derek Fisher says Kristaps Porzingis is the first one at the facility every morning at 7:30 AM, sometimes beating the coach here.
— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) September 25, 2015
With NBA training camps beginning next Monday and the preseason around the corner, the NBA world will soon get its first look at one of the most intriguing rookies in the league.