When the New York Knicks basically overhauled their roster this summer, there was a mixture of good reason, panic and placating a frustrated superstar in Carmelo Anthony.
Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah arrived from the Chicago Bulls under different circumstances. Noah decided to leave in free agency after current Chicago coach, Fred Hoiberg, had clearly become frustrated with his fitness.
Rose, on the other hand, was dealt away as the team - and the city - knew that the incredibly talented hometown kid they once possessed was now a shell of that player.
Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings, amongst others, also made their way to the Big Apple, all in a bid to help the residents of Madison Square Garden end their three-year playoff drought.
During that time, the Knicks their worst ever second with just 17 wins in 2014-15. That summer, they secured a certain Latvian talent in the draft with the fourth pick. His name is Kristaps Porzingis.
The Knicks won 15 more games with the 7'3" European phenomenon in their ranks last term and for all their headline-making additions in the summer, Porzigod is the real attraction.
Names like Rose and Noah are more about grabbing people's attention than actual substance. Porzingis, on the other hand, is the real deal.
He averaged 14.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in his debut season, and his sophomore campaign has looks set to blow those numbers away.
The 21-year-old is currently producing an average of 21 points a night and has carried the Knicks to victories over Detroit and Portland this season with a career-high 35 points in the former game, and 31 points in the latter.
His initial outburst left former MVP Rose in shock.
"It's kind of crazy," Rose said. "... He's going out here scoring 30, and he really don't know the NBA yet. That's scary."
After spending a few short weeks training with Porzingis back in August, Noah had a similar assertion of his fellow big man.
“With Kristaps, sky’s the limit,’’ Noah said. “He’s as skilled as it gets. He’s still getting so much better. He’s doing everything he can to be great. He’s only 20 years old. It’s scary.’’
While those two men are the forward's peers in many ways, Carmelo Anthony is the man he is trying to usurp. Now 32-years-old, Melo is still an extremely dangerous offensive powerhouse, but the signs that Porzingis will one day lead the Knicks are already apparent.
“I’m still in awe of kind of some of the things he does on the court. Like yesterday, he made a move and I’m like, ‘Damn.’ You know what I mean? I’m still like a fan of kind of his talent and his skill level,” Anthony said after Monday’s practice. “I always thought it would kind of take longer to get acclimated. He’s doing a great job with just kind of taking it day by day, still getting a feel for the game and figuring it out on the fly.”
Anthony appears only interested in helping Porzingis reaching his potential. Whether that is so he can finally get the NBA ring he so dearly craves, or if it is just for the betterment of the Knicks, either works for Melo.
Porzingis had the fourth highest jersey sales in the entire league last season and he is noticeably better in this young NBA campaign. If the Knicks are smart, they will put their eggs in the giant Latvian basket and their return to contention may be swifter than many thought.