NEW YORK (AP) — Kristaps Porzingis is neither surprised nor satisfied by his sensational start to the NBA season.
He entered play Wednesday third in the league in scoring with 29.3 points per game after the best beginning stretch ever for a New York Knicks player. He already was the first player in franchise history to score 30 in four of his first five games, then went for a career-best 38 in a victory over Denver on Monday.
The Knicks made him the face of the franchise when they traded Carmelo Anthony, and he looks up for the challenge.
“I’m never surprised by my own game,” Porzingis said. “I know what I can do on the basketball court. I always expect the most out of myself.”
He steadied the Knicks after a 0-3 start by leading them to three straight victories heading into their game Wednesday against Houston. The extra attention that defenses can pay him now that Anthony is gone hasn’t helped them stop the 7-foot-3 forward.
He spent the summer training in Latvia, leading his home country to a quarterfinal finish in the European championships. It appeared that he would return to New York as the No. 2 option, then he became the main man when the Knicks dealt Anthony to Oklahoma City on the eve of training camp.
Now Porzingis is scoring in a way even beyond what Anthony did.
“I put in so much work and for me it’s not a surprise that I’m able to play at this level right now,” Porzingis said.
Porzingis knew he would need strength to get through the long NBA season after losing weight during it in his first two seasons. Searching for a way to keep the weight on, he began at the end of last season eating Zing Bars between meals, trying to meet his goal of eating around 5,000 calories a day.
It’s worked so far — Porzingis said he’s around 243 pounds, about 20 up from his rookie season. And he became such a fan of the product that he decided to invest in the company and will be on its board of directors.
“I told them if I’m in, I want to be involved 100 percent and I want to know also the business part of it, not just put my face on the bar and that’s it,” Porzingis said.
Those kinds of opportunities will be more available to him now as the marquee player in the biggest market. He wanted to take advantage of them when he arrived as a rookie but quickly realized it took up too much of his time so he cut back, preferring to focus solely on just a few partnerships.
He said that hasn’t changed.
“The rest of the stuff will come and it’s already coming,” Porzingis said. “There’s a lot of stuff that we say no to just because we want to keep basketball as the main priority, and I need my rest days and I need time off and I can’t be doing stuff every day off. So we really are just doing the stuff that I really want to be involved with.”
Porzingis seems well on his way to a first All-Star berth — though fans at Madison Square Garden were thinking beyond that when they showered him with “MVP! MVP!” chants on Monday, a night after he led the Knicks to a surprising victory in Cleveland.
He may not continue scoring at this level, but he thinks he can keep playing that way.
“I believe so,” he said. “That’s the goal. That’s the goal for me to be consistent throughout the season and I’m doing everything to prepare myself for every game, every practice.”
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