Wednesday night was round two between the icon vs. the fan: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Kristaps Porzingis.
After facing off for the first time last year, the Knicks traveled to Dallas on Wednesday night where Porzingis got the chance again to matchup against his long time idol, Dirk Nowitzki. But it wasn’t exactly a direct matchup due to recent lineup changes by the Mavericks.
With Nowitzki lining up at center next to Joakim Noah, this left Harrison Barnes at the power forward spot matching up against Porzingis, but this didn’t stop Porzingis from getting switched off on his idol at times.
At one point, Porzingis was guarding Nowitzki on the post when Dirk turned for his classic fadeaway, but instead, pump faked the youngster into the air and drew the foul. Porzingis instantly had a large grin on his face as he knew the crafty legend got him.
“I was frustrated too, I kind of laughed. I tried to avoid him, but they still called it. Obviously, it’s Dirk, he knows how to draw that contact and get fouled. But yeah, it was more like a sarcastic laugh for me, I was just mad and he got me there,” Porzingis said after the game.
“I was trying to guard him the best that I can and when you try to do too much sometimes you go for all of the fakes and everything . He is just a smart player.”
It was a cool moment to watch as the kid knew that the old dog had gotten him like he had a hundred of other players throughout his 19 years in the league.
Nowitzki finished the night with 19 points on 8-12 shooting from the field. After early foul trouble for Porzingis, he finished with 13 points on 4-11 shooting in the loss.
When I followed up with Porzingis on what Nowitzki has meant personally to him, he made it known that working with his idol is something he hopes he can do.
“He was an idol for me growing up and still is. Hopefully I have a chance to learn from him one day and actually get together with him in the gym and learn from him. Ask him as many questions I can and take as much as I can because obviously he won’t be in the league forever,” Porzingis said.
Nobody wants to talk about Nowitzki not being around forever, but we all know that day is coming.
So what does Nowitzki think about the budding young star in Porzingis?
“I am a huge fan, I have said that from day one,” Nowitzki said when asked about Porzingis after the game. “He is going to be around for a long, long time. He is 7’3″ and can shoot from 30-35 feet easy. He has all of the in-between game. He’s going to be fun in this league for a long time.”
Fun for the Knicks at least, as it won’t be too much fun for opposing teams for the next years to come.
When Nowitzki was asked if he sees any of himself in Porzingis, Dirk gave high praise for the kid.
“I think he is longer, a little more athletic. He shoots it a little more easier from three. Like I said, it is his in-between game that is going to get better and better. Now he has added a little crossover and some pull ups. He’s going to get better on the block as he gets older and fills out more in his body. He is going to be a matchup nightmare for a long, long time.”
At 7’3″, the things Porzingis can do on the court, and now off the dribble, is sometimes just unfair. Watching someone of his stature perform dribble moves and pull up jump shots is truly remarkable, but Nowitzki does make a fair point in regards to his linky body frame and developing post game.
One thing is clear, they are both fans of each other, the icon and the fan.
Maybe, if Porzingis gets his wish, the icon and fan relationship can develop into a teacher and student relationship.
by Isaac Harris