After trading away Carmelo Anthony before the season started, the New York Knicks seemingly had no identity when they stepped on the court for their first game of the year.
Ironically, that game was against Melo and the Oklahoma City Thunder, and despite a 105-84 loss, Kristaps Porzingis immediately established himself as the new face of the franchise, pouring in 31 points and 12 rebounds. The team's identity instantly became clear: this was his team.
In 10 games played, the 7'3" Latvian star is averaging 30.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks over 33.0 minutes. Heading into Wednesday night's slate of games, he ranked second in the NBA in scoring, just behind Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Destroying his previous career-high of 18.1 points per game last season, Porzingis will be eligible to receive a max extension next summer, similar to the one Joel Embiid was recently given.
Ian Begley of ESPN explained Porzingis' options in a recent report:
"He is eligible to sign a five-year rookie extension starting this summer that is worth between 25 and 30 percent of the salary cap (a projected $157 million to $188 million in total)," Begley wrote. "If he wanted to become an unrestricted free agent, Porzingis would have to play his fifth season with the Knicks on a qualifying offer, which would be for $7.5 million -- significantly less annual money than he could earn via an extension."
At this point, it seems like a virtual lock that the Knicks will want to hold onto him for as long as possible, but a recent admission by the superstar might have them a bit concerned.
Not only did Porzingis sit out of the team's game against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday due to a sore elbow, but he detailed the extent of the ailment, which raised some eyebrows.
"When I hit it again it just swells up and it's sensitive and I can't stretch my arm,'' Porzingis said, via Marc Berman of the New York Post. "It bothers me a little bit but not that bad. It's always, I have to get the swelling down and then I'll be fine again. But I think once the season's over. I might have to do something about it. I just can't keep going like this every year."
Porzingis said that he could "drain it" or "do some stuff with it." Although the injury is bothering him, he believes that he will be ready for Saturday's game against the Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden.
It will be a situation that the franchise will monitor very closely throughout the season. If he needs surgery, it might complicate his extension negotiations.