This has been the week of Kristaps Porziņģis. I'm a Knicks fan who has endured almost 20 years of bad decisions, little playoff action and a general lack of significance. But 20 years ago the Knicks certainly made their presence felt in the NBA, players such as Ewing, Starks, Oakley and McDaniel threw their weight around and didn't suffer high flying superstars like Michael Jordan gladly. The 1994 finals brought heartbreak, but a few years later Spree, LJ, H20 and Camby brought Ewing to the dance again, against all odds, only to fall short against a young Tim Duncan and mature David Robinson. Even so, these were the golden days.
Don't get me wrong, there have been flashes of hope. It was nice to have Stephon Marbury for a while, kinda. Melo brought some credibility, Linsanity brought the show back to broadway for a few months and at one point the Knicks were a playoff team again. But all the high expectations fell short quicker than a John Starks three pointer in the finals, only this time it wasn't because of a Hakeem Olajuwon block, but repeated bad decisions from management. The glory days of the Knicks were about as welcome in MSG as Charles Oakley, to the owners, not the fans.
When the Knicks drafted Porziņģis I thought that the Knicks had done it again, another bad decision, another draft bust who would be playing D-League basketball in a couple of seasons or else be back in Europe, where he belongs.
But times have changed now. Kristaps Porziņģis proved the haters wrong from the moment he put on a Knicks jersey and quickly became the saviour of New York Knickerbockers basketball. This season he has stepped up another level, improving by the minute it seems, every moment stepping into his destiny. International players are no longer to be underestimated and Kristaps has just placed a huge full stop (period) under that debate.
But if Kristaps Porziņģis has ended the European/international debate, then one of the last remaining 90s players (salute VC) blew the discussion wide open. Dirk Nowitzki entered the NBA in 1998 with low expectations, not least from Charles Barkley, but will retire as an NBA champion and a hall of famer. He is a classic franchise player (remember those?!) who set the blueprint for the big man of today's league. Grab boards, play D, hit 3s. International players aren't just common in the NBA today, they're dominating. As Dirk passed the torch to The Unicorn this summer, we saw a glimpse of the future and, like the Knicks, it's changing.