One of many few earlier occasions Lauri Markkanen was in New York, he dined with Phil Jackson as a part of the predraft course of. The sensation from the Knicks, at the moment, was Markkanen might function a alternative for Kristaps Porzingis ought to Jackson pull the set off on the commerce provides that have been flooding his telephone for the Latvian.
“He made me style uncooked fish, or uncooked steak,” Markkanen instructed the Every day Information. “I didn’t prefer it.”
So why did the Zen Grasp drive him to digest nasty raw meat – after attempting the identical stunt with prospect Dennis Smith Jr. in the course of the draft course of?
“I don’t know. Possibly he was attempting to get one thing from my persona with that.”
Everyone knows how the remainder of the story unfolded: the Knicks saved Porzingis, drafted Frank Ntilikina one spot after the Bulls took Markkanen, and Jackson was fired.
The strikes have been applauded by Knicks followers and the media, largely as a result of Porzingis was and stays the beacon of sunshine for a pissed off franchise. Besides possibly Jackson wasn’t to this point off in contemplating Markkanen comparable.
The argument might definitely be made following New York’s 122-119 double OT loss Wednesday to the Bulls, when Markkanen upstaged and outshined his European counterpart throughout his first NBA sport on the Backyard.
Porzingis had his moments – together with two very particular ones – however Markkanen carried the Bulls to their third straight win over the Knicks with a game-high 33 factors and 10 rebounds. The facility ahead’s spotlight was a ferocious dunk over Enes Kanter within the third quarter.
“He’s an ideal younger participant,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek mentioned. “We all the time take a look at KP at 7-Three and the issues he can do. However this child is 7-foot additionally. He has the abilities. He in all probability has the NBA physique already.”
Porzingis countered with 24 factors that required 24 pictures. His block on Markkanen on the rim saved a possible game-winning bucket in regulation, and Porzingis’ personal dunk on the buzzer of the primary OT prolonged the sport once more. However he was pissed off after one other defeat – the third straight at house – because the Knicks have been swept over three video games within the common season by the Bulls (15-27).
“Simply one other powerful loss. It’s not lots to say actually,” he mentioned. “We simply bought to maintain going and studying. I don’t need to say the identical factor again and again, we’ve got some rising to do for positive.”
Porzinigis even spoke longingly about Chicago’s taking part in model, which contrasts New York’s halfcourt model.
“They play free. They’re younger, they run up and down. It’s fairly enjoyable to observe them play,” he mentioned.
The Knicks at the moment are formally previous the midway of their season, 42 video games of seesawing, and nonetheless Hornacek mentioned they’ve exceeded expectations. The bar is low across the Backyard today, however Hornacek has some extent given the preseason expectations. They have been speculated to compete for the No. 1 draft choose however there’s nonetheless hope for the playoffs practically three months into season. In truth, they’ve a greater file at this level than final season’s squad, which featured Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and managed solely 18 wins by means of 42 video games.
Nonetheless, there are occasions when they need to be higher — HAVE to be higher — like in opposition to the Bulls at house. New York misplaced regardless of a triple-double from Jarrett Jack and one other scoring outburst from Michael Beasley (26 factors). They misplaced regardless of holding leads of 11 within the first half and eight within the second. They misplaced regardless of Porzingis’ heroics to drive two overtimes, together with the dunk on the buzzer of the primary OT that got here off a perfectly-placed go from Jack.
They misplaced as a result of a 20-year-old from Finland was one of the best European on the Backyard on a dramatic Wednesday evening, and the guests performed more durable.
“It is a crew that has overwhelmed us 3 times on simply sheer will, simply sheer taking part in exhausting,” Jack mentioned.