Kristaps Porzingis: I’ll guard Carmelo, but it won’t be easy
The student will square off against the master in Oklahoma City on Thursday night in the Knicks’ deliciously compelling season opener.
With Carmelo Anthony lining up at power forward in the Thunder’s small-ball lineup, Porzingis said he will defend his former teammate at the outset. At 7-foot-3, Porzingis has the height advantage, but the 6-8 Anthony has the craftiness.
“I think I will, I think I will,’’ Porzingis said after Tuesday’s practice in which the coaching staff started to focus on the team’s first opponent. “It’s going to be interesting. He’s been in the league for 13, 14 years. I think everybody knows what he’s doing, but nobody can stop him. It’s going to be a challenge for me. I’m going to do my best.’’
Porzingis said he and a handful of Knicks may dine with Anthony after they get to town Wednesday night. Kyle O’Quinn was said to be arranging the get-together.
Asked if he expected Anthony to be extra jacked against his old friends, Porzingis said: “It’s hard to say. He has so much experience. He’s not only going to think about this game. He’s just going to go out there and be Melo like he always is. It’ll be fun.’’
The Knicks had planned to watch film of Anthony’s role in Billy Donovan’s offense after Tuesday’s practice.
“I watched him every day for two years,’’ Porzingis said. “I know what he does. How he can score. But if there was an answer to what he’s doing and how to defend that, that would be nice, but there’s no film I can watch and say, ‘Now I know how to guard this.’ So I’m going to try to use my length as much as I can.’’
The Knicks wanted to rebuild and Anthony didn’t want to stand in their way. Porzingis wished management could have attempted to reload with Anthony, his mentor.
“For myself, I wanted him to stay,’’ Porzingis said. “And to play with him and learn from him and so on. But from the other side I understand that he needed a new challenge in his career and he wants to win a championship one day so I’m happy for him. He’s in an environment where he might be able to do that soon. So I’m happy for him.”
The Knicks may not be ready for 30 wins, so it could turn ugly in arguably the NBA’s loudest building, Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“Carmelo’s a tough guy to play one-on-one,’’ Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “When that man has the ball, whoever it is, they got to do their best and then hope our team defense comes into play. KP, obviously, with Melo playing the 4 spot, will be matched up against him. So he knows his game. So Carmelo knows his. It’s going to be a good battle.’’
The Knicks’ projected starting lineup has Courtney Lee at small forward, and he’d be tasked with stopping another All-Star in Paul George.
“It’s going to be a heckuva challenge,’’ Hornacek said.
Lance Thomas, a former Thunder forward, could be an X-factor. He played some with the starting unit in Tuesday’s practice and can be a good option to cover either George or Anthony.
“It’s definitely going to be weird seeing him in that [uniform],’’ said Thomas, who recently wrote a moving essay lamenting Anthony’s departure. “But we gotta go against him now so all that has to go out of the door once the ball’s thrown up in the air and we got to compete and try to beat him. …
“The irony of this is ridiculous, but that’s what comes with the business. Things happen and you got to adjust.”