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NBA Sunday: Are The Cavaliers The Favorites In The East?

With LeBron James and Kevin Love heading to Cleveland, are the Cavaliers the best team in the Eastern Conference?

Jesse Blancarte

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Are The Cavaliers The Favorites In The East?

When LeBron James announced that he would return to the Cleveland Cavaliers after four seasons with the Miami HEAT, Cleveland fans celebrated as if they had just won an NBA championship. The return of LeBron would usher in a new era for the Cavaliers, who had just drafted number one overall pick Andrew Wiggins. However, soon after LeBron’s announcement, reports surfaced that the Cavaliers were in position to acquire disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love in a deal that would include Wiggins.

After weeks of speculation, on Thursday Adrian Wojnarowksi of Yahoo Sports reported that the Cavaliers and Timberwolves had an agreement in place to send Love to Cleveland. Due to league rules the trade cannot be made official until August 23, since that is 30 days after Andrew Wiggins signed his rookie contract with Cavaliers.

When the deal does happen, Love will officially join LeBron and Kyrie Irving to form arguably the most formidable big three in the league. Now the question is, are the Cavaliers the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference and reach the NBA Finals next season?

For the last two seasons, the Indiana Pacers have been the biggest challenger to James and the HEAT in the East. However, with the gruesome leg injury to Paul George, which is expected to keep him out for the entire 2014- 15 season and the loss of Lance Stephenson, the Pacers are no longer the threat they once were. While the additions of C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey somewhat help fill the void left by Stephenson, there is simply no way the Pacers can make up for the loss of George. This is especially true considering that Wojnarowski is reporting that veteran free agent forward Shawn Marion is heavily leaning towards taking a veteran’s minimum deal to join LeBron in Cleveland, rather than taking more money to join the Pacers.

The Chicago Bulls have been without Derrick Rose for the last two seasons, yet without the former MVP they nearly won 50 games through disciplined team-defense. Now, Rose is reportedly 100 percent healthy, competing with Team USA, and is set to rejoin the Bulls for the upcoming season. All reports coming out of the USA camp have been positive, and by all accounts Rose has recaptured his explosiveness. He will be rejoining center Joakim Noah and head coach Tom Thibodeau, who together made Chicago one of the toughest defensive teams in the NBA for the last few years.

Noah was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year and is one of the biggest difference makers in the league. Thibodeau is one of the best defensive coaches in the league and has arguably done the most out of all NBA coaches with the talent available to him these last few seasons. So while defense has not been an issue for the Bulls these last two years, the offense has been a different story.

Last season, the Bulls scored 99.7 points per 100 possessions, which was tied for third-worst in the league with the Boston Celtics. However, this offseason the Bulls landed free agent power forward Pau Gasol, who even at age 34 remains one of the most productive big men in the league. Last season, in 60 games with the Los Angeles Lakers, Gasol averaged 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.5 blocks, and shot 48 percent from the field. Gasol is an effective post scorer and mid-range shooter and next to Noah forms one of the best passing frontcourts in the NBA.

In addition, the Bulls are bringing over star European forward Nikola Mirotic, who is a good shooter, adding a stretch-four to the offense to backup Taj Gibson. The Bulls also acquired the draft rights to rookie forward Doug McDermott out of Creighton. McDermott led the nation in scoring last year, is the fifth-highest scoring college player in NCAA history and is more ready to contribute than other rookies from this class after playing four years of college basketball.

With these significant additions, it is not hard to imagine that the Bulls will significantly outpace their 48-win season from last year and compete for the title of best overall team in the East.

The Toronto Raptors, just like the Bulls, won 48 games last season and made it to the playoffs. The big question entering this summer for the Raptors was whether they would be able to retain free agent point guard Kyle Lowry. The Raptors stepped up and offered Lowry a four-year, $48 million contract, which Lowry accepted. With Lowry’s return, and the continued development of players like DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross, and another year under head coach Dwane Casey, the Raptors are again a threat to compete at a high level.

Another team that the Cavaliers will have to watch out for are the Washington Wizards. Led by John Wall, Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat, the Wizards proved to be a stingy defensive team last season (102.4 points per 100 possessions) and have an interesting mix of young developing talent and veteran leadership, including recently acquired long-time Celtic and former Brooklyn Net Paul Pierce. Pierce brings with him playoff experience and clutch shooting, and he is expected to help fill the void left by small forward Trevor Ariza, who signed a free agent deal with the Houston Rockets this offseason.

Wall and Beal are the Wizards’ best young players and both competed with the USA national team this summer, but were recently dismissed. However, their inclusion with the program and improved play last year are reason enough to believe that this backcourt combo will only be better next year. Otto Porter, drafted with the third overall pick last year, showed flashes of an improved overall game at the Las Vegas Summer League.

Another tough team in the Eastern Conference is the rising Charlotte Hornets, who signed Lance Stephenson away from the Pacers this offseason.

Stephenson joins a team featuring talented players like Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, and young developing players like Bismack Biyombo and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Headed by coach Steve Clifford, the Hornets were one of the best defensive teams in the league last year. Like the Wizards, Charlotte features bright young talent mixed in with veteran leaders that plays tough defense, giving up only 101.2 points per 100 possessions last season. That was good for sixth-best in the NBA.

While Clifford had Charlotte playing top-level defense last season, it was their offense that was below league average. However, Stephenson, who was the Pacers’ best playmaker last season, brings with him a mix of ball-handling and creative passing that will add a new element to the Charlotte offense.

The HEAT may also pose a challenge to the Cavaliers. While losing James is a crushing blow to the franchise, team president Pat Riley managed to bring back Chris Bosh, re-sign Dwyane Wade and add other solid players like Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger.

Wade has reportedly lost weight in an attempt to recapture his old form and Bosh will be featured more so than he was the last four years, which means he may look more like the 20-10 player he was in Toronto at the beginning of his career.

So after sizing up Cleveland’s competition for this upcoming season, how do the Cavaliers stack up in the East?

The Cavaliers finished 33-49 last season, falling well short of the playoffs. The team was inconsistent throughout the season, relying on relatively inexperienced players like Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, role players like C.J. Miles and experimenting early in the season with the mercurial Andrew Bynum. Even veteran small forward Luol Deng, who was acquired mid-season, was inconsistent.

After the season, the Cavaliers fired (for a second time) head coach Mike Brown and subsequently hired David Blatt, who has coached overseas for several years, but has no prior NBA coaching experience. Blatt is noted as an offensive guru and comes to Cleveland with a reputation for getting along with his players. However, similar to Erik Spoelstra four years ago, Blatt will have the task of meshing together three star players along with a cast of supporting players.

It is impossible to know what exactly the Cavaliers’ offense and defense will look like under Blatt, especially with the addition of players as talented as James and Love. However, we can surmise that Blatt will look to run a fast-paced offense that utilizes floor spacing, which will be generated from players like Irving, Love, Waiters and recent acquisitions Mike Miller and James Jones. Blatt will also likely use Love’s underrated post-up game to draw double teams and find open shooters. When there isn’t an open shot on the perimeter, James, Waiters or Irving can drive to the rim to suck defenses in and either finish at the rim or look for kick-outs on the perimeter, something that each player is well suited to do.

Also, Love’s rebounding and elite outlet passing will give James and Irving, who are both very dangerous in transition, the opportunity to leak out for full-court passes before defenses can get set. Think of how effective Love was out-letting the ball to Corey Brewer in Minnesota, and then replace Brewer with James and you can imagine the potential this Cavaliers team has in transition. Even Anderson Varejao, who is another very good rebounder, is a good enough passer to hit James or Irving in stride to put pressure on opposing teams. While the Cavaliers did not play at a particularly fast-pace last season (they ranked 18th in pace last season), the presence of Blatt and players like Irving, James, Waiters and Love make an up-tempo attack a natural weapon to use against opponents.

The Cavaliers’ defense may be a little harder to predict. Last year, the Cavaliers averaged the second-fewest blocks per game in the league (3.6) and had no one to anchor the defense and protect the rim. Varejao has only averaged more than one block per game once in his 10-year career, and there is no reason to expect that will change next season. There is no indication that Cleveland will be able to bring in a rim protector before the season starts. This is a similar problem that the Timberwolves had last year with Love playing next to Nikola Pekovic. Neither big man could stop players from attacking the rim, which put pressure on all other aspects of the Minnesota defense, an issue that will likely continue in Cleveland with Love playing next to Varejao. Thus, Blatt will likely look to use James, and perhaps Marion (if he signs with Cleveland), to pressure wing players and prevent penetration at the rim. However, while James and Marion are noted perimeter defenders, Irving and Waiters are average at best, and Miller and Jones are both well over 30 years old and past their physical primes. For this reason, the Cavaliers, as they did last year, will at times sag off of wing players and give up a large number of three pointers in order to keep opponents from penetrating and scoring at the rim. It will be a calculated gamble – one that represents the difficulties of playing team defense when there is no defensive anchor protecting the basket.

Nevertheless, with James, Irving and Love together in Cleveland playing under an offensive-minded coach, we can predict that the Cavaliers will be one of the best offensive teams in the league next year. What is not clear is whether that offense will be enough to overcome other teams like the Bulls, considering the likely shortcomings of the Cleveland defense.

As of now, it seems as though the Bulls are best situated to stand between the Cavaliers and the NBA Finals. But from a talent standpoint, it seems the Cavaliers are the favorites in the East heading into next season. The Bulls, as they do every year, will be tough competition and may have added enough offensive firepower to overcome the Cavaliers this upcoming season. The Bulls also have the advantage of years of experience playing with one another, and being coached by one of the best proven coaches in the league. Other teams like the Hornets, Wizards, HEAT and Raptors will also challenge the Cavaliers, but there is a big talent gap between those teams and Cleveland.

We won’t know for sure how good Cleveland can be next year until the season starts, but, as of now, it looks like it may be a two-team race in the East between the Bulls and the Cavaliers.

Up Close With Jerryd Bayless

Basketball Insiders caught up with Milwaukee Bucks guard Jerryd Bayless at adidas Nations. Check out the video interview below:


Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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Wright Primed To Take Next Step With Raptors

Third year Utah alum Delon Wright is showing flashes of what he can do in an expanded role for Toronto.

Spencer Davies

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Backup point guards are essential to a team’s success.

They’re the floor generals of the second unit. They create for themselves to score. They collapse defenses in order for the others to get opportunities.

In some cases, these players perform so well that they outgrow the role they provide and force their way into the starting five—on that same team or elsewhere. Just look at past examples: Darren Collison, Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson, Dennis Schroder, etc. The list goes on.

Kyle Lowry was 20 years old when he was drafted late in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. He studied the position behind veteran guards Chucky Atkins and Damon “Mighty Mouse” Stoudamire.

But even after showing promise in his rookie season, management decided to take Mike Conley Jr. the very next year. Though the two were about even in playing time, it was clear the Grizzlies favored youth over anything else, so in 2009, Lowry was dealt with the Houston Rockets in a three-way trade at the deadline.

At this point, Lowry had started in only 30 games over two-and-a-half seasons, so the keys to the car weren’t ready for him just yet. Aaron Brooks was a unique talent that Rick Adelman loved to throw out there along with Tracy McGrady and Kevin Martin.

Brooks started all 82 games in the 2009-10 campaign and blossomed into a scoring machine. He was shooting the lights out that year, and because of that, it was tough to sit him. Lowry still took advantage of his playing time, though, with plenty of floor run. He averaged nearly 14 points and seven assists per 36 minutes.

To the misfortune of his teammate and the advantage to Lowry the next season, Brooks struggled mightily with the jump shot that made him so deadly. After 34 games, the Rockets moved him in a deal to Phoenix for Goran Dragic and a first-round pick. Dragic was on his way to carving his niche in the league, but it opened up a door for Lowry to really take hold as “quarterback” of the team.

Circumstances arose once again, however. Houston had let go of Adelman and hired Kevin McHale in June 2011. Lowry and his new head coach did not have the same rapport. He unfortunately suffered from a bacterial infection and missed out on the beginning of the season, and towards the end, the emergence of Dragic led to his demise.

That summer, the Rockets sent Lowry to the Toronto Raptors for Gary Forbes and a future first-rounder. Once again, it was a fresh start for him, but also a brand new team with a different head coach.

It didn’t take long for the man to realize his true potential there. Aside from shuffling a bit with Jose Calderon as the starter in Toronto, Lowry found a home. The jump he made between that season and the next one was impressive.

Lowry got paid after that 2013-14 season and re-signed with the Raptors for four years. He earned three All-Star appearances and—aside from the postseason disappointments—led the team to new heights with his fellow All-Star backcourt partner DeMar DeRozan.

Toronto and its star point guard agreed to a three-year, $100 million deal over the summer to keep him running the show and to honor that contract well as he has always had. But now there’s somebody behind Lowry waiting to break out, and could very well be the one who gets the torch passed to him.

Delon Wright is ready to make his mark. When he entered the league, he was a reserve behind Cory Joseph and had to observe and soak in the experience of NBA life. For some rookies, they get the chance immediately, and for the others, they have to wait their turn. In this case, it was the latter.

Playing the waiting game ended up working out well for him. In the offseason, the Raptors went out and traded Joseph for C.J. Miles due to the loss of DeMarre Carroll. It was a move that not only addressed a need for depth at the wing but also opened a door for Wright.

So here we are, two games in. The Raptors are 2-0 and have outscored their opponents by 51 points. In those combined, Wright has received 55 minutes of playing time.

Despite the competition being the rebuilding Chicago Bulls and a Philadelphia 76ers team trying to find an identity, he looks extremely comfortable. You don’t want to take too much out a sample size as small as that, but neither the numbers nor the eye test lies.

Wright has played the third-most minutes on the team thus far. He’s done a great job on both sides of the floor but has truly made a difference on the defensive end. As of now, the Raptors are only allowing 83 points per 100 possessions with him on the hardwood. When he’s not, that number blows up to 98.9 using the same scale.

Offensively he’s almost been just as good. Wright has been aggressive as a facilitator and as a shooter, putting up 13- and 14-point games early on. He dished out five assists in the season opener and nabbed five rebounds in the second game. He has a higher offensive rating than both Lowry and DeRozan.

According to NBA.com, Toronto’s net rating with him off the court (12.9) is the second lowest to his lifelong teammate Jakob Poeltl (12.8). Take it with a grain of salt because it’s one week into the season, but Wright has the best net rating in the league (37.6) among those playing at least 25 minutes per game.

Call it garbage time play or whatever you want: He has the tools to succeed. The stature is there. The intangibles are evident. It’s all about putting it together over the course of an entire season.

If the trend continues, there’s no way Casey can keep him off the floor for long. We don’t know where Wright’s career could go. It’s way too early to tell. The Raptors are likely hoping for him to be the successor after this era of basketball has come and gone.

Lowry is the man in Toronto, as is DeRozan. Nothing is changing that anytime soon. But rest assured, Wright’s primed to take a big step this year and it’s going to be fun to watch.

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NBA AM: Was Watson Setup To Fail or Just Ill Equipped?

Was Phoenix’s Earl Watson setup to fail or did he just not have the tools and experience to overcome the tenuous job of a rebuild?

Steve Kyler

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Set Up To Fail? Maybe

The Phoenix Suns have parted ways with head coach Earl Watson just three games into the 2017-18 season. Associate head coach Jay Triano is expected to be his replacement as interim head coach.

Some have suggested that Watson was set up to fail, but let’s be honest for a minute. Was Watson really the best option the Suns had after parting ways with Jeff Hornacek during the 2015-16 season? Watson was well liked and that an easy and intoxicating concept, but even as an interim coach Watson won just nine games in 33 tries.

It’s not as if Watson took the team in a totally new direction; the Suns were a bad team when they took the gamble on Watson. Moving the needle wasn’t exactly likely when the massive inexperienced Watson took over the team. Is anyone really surprised he couldn’t make it work?

Sure, the roster and the priorities of the franchise were an uphill climb, but let’s be real for a minute: The Suns couldn’t have expected Watson to have the tools to bring it all together. Rebuilding is hard all by itself, and doing so with a head coach that has never coached isn’t exactly smart. In fact, it rarely works out.

It’s easy to say Watson was set up to fail, but equally easy to say he never had the experience to believe he’d be successful. It was a gamble on the Suns’ part, a gamble that ran its course.

So What Next?

The Suns are not very good, as three straight blow out losses have proven. It’s possible that Triano can make enough changes to at least get the Suns to compete, but the word in NBA circles was the Suns locker room had basically quit after three games, so Triano’s task may be tough for even a coach that been around the block a few times.

Like Watson, Triano is incredibly likable and approachable, but unlike Watson, Triano has experience. Triano has experience not only as a head coach, having coached the Toronto Raptors for three years, but he is the head coach of the Canadian National Team and has been on the Team USA and Portland Trail Blazers staff as an assistant. While Triano’s stint in Toronto looked a lot like Watson’s stint in Phoenix, the big difference is Triano has been around a lot more situations and may be better equipped to put a system and structure in place that could yield improvement, or at least that’s the newest bet the Suns are making.

With Triano at the helm, it’s also likely that the front office will have a better relationship than what’s emerged in Watson’s time in Phoenix. General Manager Ryan McDonough and Watson haven’t exactly been on the same page, and Watson had grown emboldened enough to make it clear in the media somethings were not in his control, often taken subtle shots at decisions made by the front office.

It is rare for inexperience and dysfunction to yield success. The hope is Triano will smooth some of that over.

“I Dont wanna be here.”

As news of Watson’s firing began to leak Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, who had a very good relationship with Watson, took to Twitter to announce “I Dont wanna be here.”

Bledsoe has been a constant name in NBA trade circles for the last few years, and with Watson out of the picture, Bledsoe seems to be looking for the door too.

The 27-year-old Bledsoe has two more seasons remaining on his deal, $14.5 million this season and $15 million owed for next season. The Suns have listened to offers on Bledsoe off and on for some time, with many in NBA circles believing this would be the season the Suns would finally trade him.

With Watson, a long-time champion of Bledsoe, out of the picture, there is a belief that Bledsoe’s role is going to decrease, which is likely why Bledsoe took to Twitter.

Pulling off a trade three games into the season seems highly unlikely, especially given that Bledsoe has likely killed his own trade value. There have been several teams over the last two seasons with interest in Bledsoe; the question is, will the Suns close this chapter or try and see if Bledsoe can help them right the ship under Triano and rebuild some trade value when the trade market opens up in December?

$41.11 Million

Of the Phoenix Suns’ $85.448 million in guaranteed contracts, $41.11 million belongs to Bledsoe, injured guard Brandon Knight and center Tyson Chandler. You can toss $10 million more for injured forward Jared Dudley. While Bledsoe and Chandler have played in all three regular-season games, both are not part of the long-term future of the team.

The question becomes, what role will they play under Triano?

The Suns are truly a tale of two teams. There is the old veteran squad that is clogging up the top of the Suns salary cap chart, and there are rookie scale players that are the future, and not coincidentally the players performing at their worst so far this season.

Will the Suns just let the $41.11 million owed at the top just sit, or will the Suns try and fire-sale some of those veterans? The belief is they would like to do the latter.

As much as people may want to say Watson was set up to fail, the evidence in the situation is he was never proven enough to succeed.

The Suns are in a dreadful no-man’s land of bad contracts and underperforming players. Maybe a more proven established coach could have set this situation in a better direction, but the reality is Watson was never experienced enough to handle a rebuild like this because getting the most out of players while losing is a very tough job even for the most experienced of coaches.

Watson, like many before him, will find another job in the NBA. Maybe like Triano who is replacing him, he can take the lessons learned in Phoenix and become a better coach somewhere down the road and get a shot with a team that wouldn’t require as much as the Suns desperately need.

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NBA Sunday: Kristaps Porzingis Sure Looks Ready To Be The Franchise

The Knicks hope Kristaps Porzingis can become their franchise. Thus far, he seems up to the challenge.

Moke Hamilton

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He stood in front of his mentor, isolated, just like they used to do in practice.

He’d seen the jab steps before and the head fakes—they were nothing new. And when Carmelo Anthony mustered the acceleration he still has in his 33-year-old legs to drive around Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony knew he had the 7-foot-3 Latvian big man beat.

Anthony triumphantly rose to the basket and delicately attempted his right-handed layup. Before he knew what hit him, though, Anthony’s shot had been sent to the free throw line.

The message was clear—Kristaps had taken the torch.

“It was fun,” Porzingis said about his confrontation with Anthony. “We went at it in practices a lot and one-on-one after practices.

“It was a lot of fun knowing what he was going to do and try to stop him.”

The Oklahoma City Thunder were much closer to the NBA Finals than the Knicks were last season, and removing Anthony from the Knicks and pairing him with Russell Westbrook and Paul George gives the Thunder a triumvirate that can at least conceivably challenge the Golden State Warriors. They are perhaps the only team in the entire league with enough firepower and defensive pieces.

So no, the Knicks may not be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy anytime soon, but at the very least, the franchise seems to be in good hands—the big, soft hands of Porzingis.

As young NBA players come into their own and attempt to fulfill the lofty expectations that everyone has of them, the third year is the charm, almost invariably. And in that that year, a young player can’t control the other pieces that are around him—that’s why they shouldn’t be judged by their team’s wins and losses.

In that third year, a young player also can’t really control the frequency of his injuries. The simple truth is that many 21 or 22-year-old players simply lack the hardened bones of a fully grown adult that most men become after the age of 25.

But what the young player can prove is that he is prepared to shoulder the burden and take the fight to anyone who stands before him. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks epitomizes this ideal better than any other young player in the league. He is absolutely fearless and it’s a pleasure to watch.

So is Porzingis.

Since the influx of European-born players began about 20 years ago, we have seen our fair share of “soft” European players. His talent aside (which is considerable), Porzingis has proven to be anything but, and that by itself can help players go a very long way.

In what must have felt like the longest summer ever, Porzingis saw the franchise that drafted him undergo an overhaul that resulted in a light beaming so brightly on him, you would have thought the third-year forward was starring in a Broadway musical.

Say what you want about Porzingis, but he has already done all that he can to notify everyone that have anything to do with the Knicks that his bony shoulders aren’t indicative of the weight he’s capable of carrying.

And in Oklahoma City, against his mentor, Porzingis did the heavy lifting.

“I saw energy,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said after his team’s opening night loss.

“He was great moving. He played 38 minutes, and maybe last year that would be a struggle. He would maybe get tired, and get some silly fouls, but even toward the end on that 37th or 38th minute, he was still up hollering, moving, blocking shots and getting rebounds, so he had a great game and we expect a lot more of that from him.”

Being a Knicks fan is something that nobody should wish on their worst enemy. The franchise has made scores of maneuvers that lacked wisdom and seemingly gone out of its way to alienate people beloved by the franchise. On top of it all, Knicks tickets are among the highest in the entire league.

Fans as passionate and dedicated as Knicks fans deserve a team they can be proud of and a front office that dedicates itself to putting winning ahead of petty feuds and politics.

The hiring of Scott Perry may signify just that.

So when the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony and ended up getting back 10 cents on the dollar for his value, everyone should have prepared for a long season in New York City.

Coming in, Knicks fans once again found themselves in the unenviable predicament of having to talk themselves into believing that Ramon Session, Michael Beasley and Tim Hardaway were capable of giving this team feel good moments. And while they certainly are, they will surely pale in comparison to the amount of losses that the club accrues along the way.

If there’s one thing the Philadelphia 76ers have taught everyone, however, it’s that the losses don’t necessarily need to be in vain.

So heading into this season, what Knicks fans should have been looking forward to and hoping for is nothing more than the installation of a culture that’s marked by effort, communication and selfless basketball—the hallmarks of the Golden State Warriors.

Aside from that, yes, they should have also come in with the hope that Kristaps Porzingis would take an appreciable step forward and prove himself to truly be a capable franchise cornerstone.

To this point, from the way he holds his head highly, despite a win or a loss, and the way he competes to the best of his abilities, despite his limitations. For now, it’s really all that could reasonably be asked of him.

When it was all said and done—when Porzingis looked the Knicks’ past in the eyes after the Thunder had soundly defeated his New York Knicks—Carmelo Anthony probably told him that he was proud of him and that he wished him all the luck in the world.

He probably told him to continue to work on his game and hone his craft and to block out the background noise.

And above all else, Carmelo probably told Kristaps that he believes he is capable of being his successor.

With his nodding head and serious demeanor, Porzingis, in all his glory, listened intently. Even more so, he believed every word. 

It doesn’t take all day to figure out whether the sun is shining—it’s an adage that remains as true in basketball as it does on a May Day in New York.

For Porzinigis, the bright sky and the beaming sunlight—he’s basking in it all. Not only has he becomes the Knicks’ franchise by default, he believes he’s capable of shouldering the burden.

In this town, that’s more than half the battle.

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