Kristaps Porzingis

Whether he likes it or not, whether he is ready or not, KP has become the face of the New York Knicks.

Until now there has always been a feeling that KP was willing to be in the background rather than the spotlight. That might have been out of respect for Melo or it might have been because that was where he felt comfortable. We don’t really know which and that’s why this season could be tough for KP.

There are a few things that could have an impact on KP this season

Other players on the team who may feel that they are more deserving of the limelight.

Noah is on a huge contract and under other circumstances could expect to be more of a focal point. However his first season at the Knicks was not spectacular (yes, I know this is an understatement) meaning he has been written off by a lot of fans, and probably media. He will need to be able to be a team player and support KP as he transitions to his new leadership role as any dissection could spread to other players.

Tim Hardaway Jr has returned to the Knicks as an improved player. He should see more minutes and play a more important role than during his last stint but it will be important that he does understand the dynamics of the new look Knicks.

Some of the other younger players may not respond well to the 22 KP becoming the leader of the team. I think it would be impossible not to respect his skill but will they respect him as franchise player and leader?

Increased media attention

KP has received a lot of media attention since draft night but this was softened by the continued focus on Melo and the Melo trade rumours. Now that the media doesn’t have that to talk about, or at least not in New York, they will turn that focus to KP. Ever injury – probably even a paper cut – will be subject to debate and speculation. We have seen this already with multiple reports on his knee injury at training.

Every play will be considered in minute detail and every look he shoots toward a player on his team or another team will be examined for hidden meaning. And of course his off-court activities and use of social media will be under the microscope too.

Okay I’m exaggerating here, but not much.

All the focus, attention and speculation can be tough to deal with and not all NBA players can cope with it.

His own expectations

KP will absolutely have his own idea of how he wants this season to go. He has already predicted he will be an AllStar this season.

If he feels the season, and the results aren’t what he expected this could get into his head and end up causing more issues.

Everyone deals with this kind of thing differently and as long as he has a good support network around him this should hopefully not be too much of an issue.

The fans

I say this as a Knicks fan. Knicks fans can be a tough crowd. They expect wins, the dream of championships and they will be looking with hope and expectation to KP to be the unicorn that brings the championship.

I think this will be the year that the fans really put the pressure on KP and I think he will find crowd reactions at MSG to be different from his previous years.

The Knicks

This is probably the most important. The Knicks organisation have an amazing ability to be Knicksian (in a grasping defeat from the jaws of victory way).

They need to supply KP, ensure he knows he has their faith and make moves to help strengthen the team around him. His doesn’t mean letting him has his own way but it does mean valuing the asset they have.

My biggest worry this season is that the Knicks will not have learned from past lessons and will repeat mistakes such as assuming one man can carry a team to a championship or allowing what should be locker room and back office only conversation become public knowledge. That sort of behaviour damages relationships and leads to players asking to move.

These are not insurmountable issues and some of them are smaller than others but I still have concerns for KP and I hope that support network is strong.

Melo trade

It feels as if there have been rumours that Melo was going to be traded since he joined the New York Knicks in 2011. Even after he signed a new contract in 2014, which included a no trade clause, the rumours continued, in fact they seemed to increase.

Even as a Knicks fan based in the UK, so not necessarily seeing a lot of the New York press coverage, I still heard a lot of these rumours.

In the 2016/17 season this got out of hand, fuelled by the obvious issues between Phil Jackson and Melo.

I am a Melo fan and wanted him to stay in New York but even I reached the point of wishing he would move teams so the rumours would stop. Then this off season it became clear that he wanted to leave and the Knicks did not want to include him in their future planning. Meaning that the trade was inevitable.

Weirdly the rumour mill seemed to quieten during this time. I got to the point where I assumed that Melo was destined to spend the season in an unhappy situation with the Knicks.

From a fan perspective it seemed that a trade was the best outcome. You don’t want a player on the team that doesn’t want to be there and/or a player that management don’t want to utilise.

Then the news finally came through on 23 September. Melo was to be traded to OKC.

I am still sad that Melo has left the Knicks. He clearly wanted to play there and win championships there and as a Knicks fan I never felt he had the pieces around him to make that a reality. However I had reached a point of acceptance so long before the trade happened that I wasn’t overly affected by the announcement.

I think this is probably reflected across many fans as we haven’t seen the outrage or claims of shirt burning that we have seen with other trades and FA signings.

Will moving to OKC get him the ring he so desperately wants?

It’s going to be tough as GSW are still a strong team and Houston have made moves to strengthen as well this season.

Will he make it to All-Star weekend?

Unlikely. He only made it in 2017 because another player was injured. The West has a lot of good players likely to be more popular with fans.

What will happen to the Knicks?

Well they have KP who continues to develop and amaze. Hernangomez shows real promise as a player and Tim Hardaway Jr is back to show the Knicks fans how he has developed while he was away. I am not expecting this to be the year the Knicks win the East and make a deep playoff run (though I would be pleased if they did) but this season should be interesting as we get to know all the new players and how they fit together.

All Stars Basketball

The inaugural British All Stars Basketball event was held this weekend at the O2. The event saw the top eight teams in the British Basketball League (BBL) compete for a cash prize.

In order to fit in a number of games, some changes were made to standard basketball rules. This was somewhat confusing for fans, players, coaches and refs but resulted in fewer gaffes than anticipated. Those new to the game my have been a little confused

but probably less so than the rest of us.

There will, I’m sure, be much debate about the format of the games and the rule changes.

Over 5 hours we had 13 games in an elimination style format – two loses put you out of the competition. To be honest this made the day quite long, I think we could have moved to a ‘one loss and gone’ system without losing any of the excitement.

Each game was 12 minutes long with a rolling clock, free throws were not awarded for fouls (instead one point and possession was awarded to the other team) and each team was only allowed one 30 second time out per game.

The more controversial changes were the introduction of a 5 point line and a 2 minute power play that had to be completed within the first 10 minutes of the match. I have to say that while both added some extra excitement to the day the team that won overall didn’t use their power play in one game (due to not pressing the button in time) and were not very successful at 5 point shots. I don’t think FIBA or the NBA will be looking to bring these rule changes in anytime soon.

I admit I was sceptical of the rules, and the event, beforehand but I was completely caught up in the excitement on the day. Was it ‘real’ basketball? Not exactly but it was fun and it allowed me to see my team in action and check out the competition as many teams have made a number of roster changes this off season.

Some colleagues who had never been to a basketball game are now planning to attend a BBL game in the near future. I’m sure they weren’t the only people in a similar position in the building and so if this raises awareness of the BBL and had a positive impact on attendances I think we can count this as a success.