Early Thursday morning — 7:12 a.m. ET to be exact — New York Knicks basketball unicorn Kristaps Porzingis posted a photo of himself on Instagram, getting some shots up with surefire and likely first-ballot Hall of Famer, Dirk Nowitzki.
Given the similarities in the two players’ size, skill set and background, the workout has always been viewed as a foregone conclusion.
The picture is one of the few times Knicks fans have seen their franchise centerpiece working out with a basketball after a summer where Porzingis mostly focused on strength training and adding muscle to his lanky frame. His workout with an all-time great is a welcome sight for the same fans who believe the Latvian shooter can develop into one of the most unique players ever, given his ranging skill set.
Nowitzki is a man who needs no introduction.
He has scored the most points in Dallas history by a mile. He’s widely regarded as one of the best international basketball players to ever step on a court. And he’s known, if anything, for being completely and utterly unstoppable from 28 feet in throughout his illustrious NBA career.
Porzingis, a 7’3 stretch-four from Latvia, has drawn comparisons to Nowitzki ever since the Knicks drafted him No. 4 overall in 2015. And after a standout first season resulted in a second-place Rookie of the Year finish, Nowitzki offered his services to the player who’s been tabbed the second coming of one of the best to ever do it.
“I love the kid,” Nowitzki said via a November 2016 report by Newsday’s Al Iannazzone. “I really wanted to train with him over the summer, but it didn’t work out. Hopefully we can do something next summer.”
Porzingis was honored Nowitzki reached out to him a year ago, via Newsday. The timing didn’t work out then, but Nowitzki served as a mentor of sorts for the young player who is beginning to find his way in this league.
“He said, ‘Whatever question you have, whatever you need, let me know, and if you want to work out during the summer, we can make that happen,’” Porzingis said. “It was really nice of him to give back and to help young players from Europe like me to get to that next level. It meant a lot.”
Porzingis’ numbers improved in his second season, averaging 18 points, 7.2 rebounds, and two blocks per game on 35.7 percent three-point shooting. But his overall impact on the game declined last year as he was hidden in a lineup that also featured Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, and Courtney Lee.
As a result, the ball often times made its way to Porzingis late, or sometimes not at all. He floated more around the perimeter without getting the ball, and his arsenal of offensive moves — aside from his crossover, pull-up jump shot — didn’t get a chance to develop against NBA players.
But with Nowitzki, Porzingis has a chance to learn from a player whose repertoire set a trend in the NBA years ago. The Knicks are starting from scratch, the product of a rebuild that will be complete after Anthony eventually moves on via trade or otherwise. Doing so will open up opportunities on offense for Porzingis, who becomes the focal point with an all-star leaving town.
And if his game looks anything like Nowitzki’s after training with him this summer, Knicks fans could be in for a treat when the regular season rolls around in mid-October.