Rising New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis took to Twitter to give some high praise to Utah Jazz legend Andrei Kirilenko.
Although he still has a long ways to go to prove himself in the greatest basketball league in the world, New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis has been quite the sensation during his first two seasons in the NBA. At 7’3″ and 240 pounds, the enormous Latvian often referred to as “The Unicorn” possesses both an impressive frame and a versatile skill set to go with it.
Last season, he averaged 18.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and two blocks per game, and continued to solidify himself as a stretch-big by converting on 35.7 percent of his three-point attempts. He’s shown glimpses thus far of being extremely formidable on the defensive end as well, giving him the potential to become one of the league’s most versatile two-way players for many years to come.
In fact, he may very well be looking to model his game after another versatile player that Utah Jazz fans are extremely familiar with – Andrei Kirilenko. Kirilenko was a part of some of the greatest Jazz teams following the Stockton-Malone era and certainly deserves credit as one of the best two-way players to ever don a Jazz uniform.
Although he didn’t boast the same measurables as Porzingis, standing at just 6’9″, Kirilenko’s seven-foot wingspan made him a daunting defensive force and his constant ability to stuff the box score made him one of Utah’s most effective and beloved players.
For his career, AK-47 averaged 11.8 points on 47.4 percent shooting from the field, 5.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.8 blocks. He was clearly able to contribute in a number of ways, making him a valuable and reliable piece for the Jazz that quite frankly played with a style that was ahead of its time. Kirilenko’s impressive efforts led to an All-Star bid in 2004 and three NBA All-Defensive Team honors.
And if a recent tweet from Kristaps Porzingis is any indication, The Unicorn himself likely has hopes to follow in the footsteps of Kirilenko as a versatile and effective two-way player. In that very tweet shown below, Porzingis referred to Kirilenko as “one of [his] biggest idols on and off the court.”
The message and picture are simple, but also very heartfelt. Porzingis has had somewhat of a difficult start to his NBA career given the seemingly constant turbulence surrounding the New York Knicks organization, but if he continues to model his game after guys like his idol Andrei Kirilenko, he should be able to find a way to overcome the challenges before him and arise as one of the league’s definite stars.
It’s always good to see current NBA players paying homage to those that went before them, especially when those players just so happen to be former members of the Utah Jazz. Kirilenko was a fan favorite that gave a lot to the Jazz organization, and seeing a rising star such as Porzingis shower him with such praise is a nice gesture.
There were rumors this summer that former Knicks president Phil Jackson was open to trading Kristaps Porzingis. While that likely was never much of a realistic possibility, given Porzingis’ praise of Kirilenko, I’m certain that Jazz fans would be willing to receive him with open arms if he were to ever find his way over to their roster. Recently acquired free agent Jonas Jerebko is also a big fan of Kirilenko, so uniting him with Porzingis could make for a fun pair as well.
It’s far from a realistic possibility, but the Jazz will likely have plenty of cap space during the offseasons of 2018 and 2019, so it will be interesting to see if Porzingis ends up being a player who appears at all on their radar as a trade or restricted free agent target.
Maybe Utah’s good old friend, Andrei Kirilenko, can help work some magic for his former team and the player that idolizes him.
After all, it never hurts to dream, right?