Knicks: Family Keeps Kristaps Porzingis Focused


Two unlikely words strike more fear in a general manager’s heart than any others in the world of professional sports: “Inner circle.” The phrase refers to the people with whom an athlete surrounds his or herself.

In the case of New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis, his inner circle is as positively influential as one could hope to find.

Since drafting the Latvian power forward, team president Phil Jackson has surrounded Porzingis with support. The likes of eight-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony, four-time NBA champion Kurt Rambis, and two-time NBA champion Sasha Vujacic have been vocal and active in his development.

According to Ian Begley of ESPN New York, the most prominent figures in Porzingis’ corner are not his teammates or coaches; they’re his family.

"The Porzingises have been living with Kristaps at his Westchester apartment, easing the 20-year-old’s transition to life in the NBA.“We’re 24-7 together,” Porzingis says. “Whenever I’m on the road, we’re talking about basketball [by phone]. We’re watching basketball together. We’re a basketball family…They’re there to support me, so it’s fundamental.”"

As the old saying goes, there’s nothing more important than family.

Porzingis’ brothers, Janis and Martins, have been credited with keeping him motivated and aspirational in training. His parents, Ingrida and Talis, have been just as influential.

Scott Roth, who was Porzingis’ coach with Baloncesto Sevilla of Spain’s Liga ACB in 2014-15, credits Porzingis’ family for the success he’s experienced.

"“Janis is the one who pushes [Kristaps] the most,” says Scott Roth, who coached Porzingis in the Spanish League last season. “Kris has great respect for his brothers and they are hard on him, but Janis is one of the driving forces.”“His family has made him who he is,” Roth says. “…I think he’s just a kid who saw how hard his mom and dad have worked to take care of the family, and how much they have sacrificed to make sure Kris could reach his potential … In that regard, I think Kris plays for them and tries his best for them. That’s his way of giving back.”"

If you didn’t love and respect Porzingis before, it’s understandable to start now.

As previously alluded to, Porzingis comes from a basketball family. Janis is 6’7″ and Martins is 6’4″, and both played throughout Europe.

The brothers aren’t the only Porzingis family members to have done so.

Porzingis’ father Talis, 6’4″, played semi-professionally in the Soviet Union. His mother, Ingrida, is 6’1″ and played for the national youth teams in Latvia and eventually became a coach.

Janis went as far as bringing Kristaps with him for offseason training sessions.

"“He was 12 or 13 years old and he was coming with me to practice. He was dying there, of course, but he was there, just trying to pull through,” Janis says.“It doesn’t matter how tired he was, he never stopped really until a certain point when I said we’ve got to stop because this is ridiculous. This is not good for anybody,” Janis says. “But then he would go at it again. I liked [to see] that a lot.”"

That work ethic has earned Porzingis the respect of the masses.

Being 7’3″ certainly helps, but Porzingis has achieved his NBA success through the embodiment of one word: tenacity. He’s an aggressive and fearless player whose desire to make the right play knows no bounds.

Knowing his backstory, the influence of his family is clear.

Porzingis keeps his family close and his motor running high. He can dominate games with his skill and size, but it’s his commitment and instincts that make him the overnight phenomenon that he’s become.

The 20-year-old credits his brother Janis with being the man who helped develop the work ethic that makes him so special.

"“[Janis] was always thinking 10 steps ahead,” Kristaps says. “At that moment, I was like, ‘Why do you make me do all this stuff?’ But that just showed me how much they were preparing me for what’s coming. I had no idea. Now it makes sense.”“My brother translated [that work ethic] to me,” the rookie says of Janis, who now serves as Kristaps’ agent along with Andy Miller. “He wants me to be the best player I can be.”"

It seems as though Porzingis has the perfect inner circle.

It’s inevitable that money-grabbers and attention-seekers will attempt to push Porzingis down the wrong path. It’s an evil of fame that’s resulted in the downfall of many a celebrity.

Fortunately for Porzingis and the Knicks, he’s surrounded himself with people who will not lead him astray: his family.

His brothers and parents push him to work harder and become the best player he’s capable of being. If the progress he’s already made is a sign of things to come, then Porzingis’ scorching start is only scratching the surface of the star he will become.

Next: Nothing can come between the bond Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis are forging

That’s a scary thought for the competition to process.