Charles Barkley didn’t stop at just calling Kristaps Porzingis the Rookie of the Year in a phone call with reporters to discuss the Knicks. He went way further.
Barkley will be on site to call the Knicks’ Thursday game at Utah, the late-night TNT game of the week. It’s the second time the Hall of Famer will be in the booth instead of the in the studio this season. And apparently, he’s excited to see the Knicks’ rookie sensation up close.
Porzingis has been just about as great as anyone could’ve expected. Actually, far greater. the 7-foot-3 rookie is averaging 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds in 28.0 minutes a night as a first-year NBA player. At just 20 years old, he was supposed to be a project. Turns out, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
“The kid is unbelievable; I’m looking forward to seeing him play in person,” Barkley said in a phone interview. He declared Porzingis the NBA Rookie of the Year to this point. “He has obviously surprised me.”
“I think it’s completely out of leftfield,” Barkley said. “But the thing I like about him, I think he is not given enough credit for his mental toughness. The way he got booed on draft night can really shake a kid up. That really impressed me.
“First of all, he probably hadn’t been in this country that long, if ever, then to get booed like he did on draft night.”
Barkley said Porzingis will help the Knicks’ established star, Carmelo Anthony, and vice versa.
“The better players you play with the easier the game is,” he said. “You also have to take your hat off to Carmelo, because he’s really tried to play within the system.”
Porzingis is producing on both sides of the floor, too, already mastering the more complicated concepts of help defense and swatting 1.9 shots a game on top of that. A 7-foot-3 20-year-old who’s already shooting 36 percent on a relatively high volume of threes is always going to have a heck of a future. But throw him in New York and get Barkley on the bandwagon, and you’ll never hear the end of the hype.