Porzingis was panned within seconds of his selection in 2015, as fans jeered the Knicks’ choice and one little boy famously wept while delivering a thumbs down. The Blab he had to avoid becoming was Frederic Weis. Within a few weeks of making his professional debut, Porzingis had quickly established himself as the future of the organization, displaying a comfort in the immense scrutiny that came with playing in New York.
“For me, it’s always I’m never afraid of the pressure. I’m never afraid of the moment. I always try to keep it simple. I never overthink. And I always trust my work. Always trust my summer work,” Porzingis told Yahoo Sports. “I always know I’m going to be a better player coming into the season. And doing all those things, that’s how I gained that confidence. You know, you’re always going to be ready for the moment, or you’re going to be ready to be the face of the franchise, or whatever that is. That gives you the confidence if you’re ready for it.”
His tenure with the Knicks has included some frustrating moments and a temporary stint on the trading block. But Porzingis has survived and remains committed to delivering on the promise that comes with the unique skill set that earned him the nickname “Unicorn.”
This season has been a challenge. Carmelo Anthony is no longer around to shield him from double-teams or the responsibilities that come with being the face of an organization. And the adjustment has been fatiguing both mentally and physically.
“It’s definitely not easy, but I’m growing and I’m learning from every game, and the more I play, the more experienced I’ll be and the more comfortable I’ll feel in those situations,” Porzingis told Yahoo Sports.
From overlooked to impossible to ignore
While he appears more than comfortable handling the burden of a franchise that shamelessly tanked for some lottery luck — even to the point of assuming the nickname, “The Process” — Embiid has stepped into some unfamiliar terrain for his basketball career. Embiid played at Kansas in the shadow of Andrew Wiggins, another promising international player who hails from Canada. The 76ers took Embiid third overall in 2014 primarily because the two players considered the prizes of that draft — Wiggins and Jabari Parker — were already gone. Injuries hurt his draft stock and delayed his NBA debut by two seasons but he quickly reclaimed his time and started to believe he could be the guy.
“Truthfully, I didn’t know until I actually started playing my first game in the NBA. Back in college, it was all about Wiggs and then I kind of went under the radar. I got to the league, I ended up sitting out two years,” Embiid told Yahoo Sports. “People have always been in my ear, talking about how great I was going to be. They noticed the comparisons to Hakeem and all those great centers, but I think it took me to my first NBA game to figure out I had a chance.”
Embiid hasn’t played the equivalent of one full season but has already flashed enough potential to garner a highly protected maximum extension. He’s a power-dunking, smack-talking, fun-loving force whose only limitation appears to be an inability to avoid physical setbacks. But he remains eager to be an NBA A-lister sooner than later.
“I want to be that guy. I want them to look at me the way they do guys like LeBron or Steph,” Embiid told Yahoo Sports. “I feel like I’m, like, right there. I just need to stay healthy and keep playing. But I feel like I’m right there. But I embrace it and I love it. I feel like if I put in the work and stay healthy, I think I have a chance.”
With Embiid and Simmons, Philadelphia has the unique experience of having two international players leading the franchise back toward respectability. Simmons, a 6-foot-10 point guard, is the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year honors and has quickly created a formidable Shaq-Penny 2.0 combination with Embiid.
“You know it’s for the good,” Embiid told Yahoo Sports. “He’s having a hell of a season. We’re learning how to play with each other and I feel we’re doing pretty good this season and the sky … I don’t even know if there’s a limit to how good we can be. But I enjoy playing with him and I can’t wait to keep on going.”
The international lull that produced several role players, noted flops in Darko Milicic and Anthony Bennett, and disappointments like Andrea Bargnani appears to have entered a more fruitful and rewarding phase for the league. In addition to the aforementioned youngsters who appear poised to run the NBA in the near future, the Chicago Bulls are in the process of developing Lauri Markkanen, a Finnish rookie who has already received an approving nod from Nowitzki. Luka Doncic, an 18-year-old forward from Slovenia, is also considered a can’t-miss prospect in the 2018 draft. Until they establish themselves, the leaders of the new wave aren’t waiting for an invitation to leave an impression.
“They’re having, already, a huge impact on the game. Now it’s just matter of, can they do it 10, 15 years? That’s what would define them, I guess, at the end of their careers,” Gasol told Yahoo Sports. “But they’re very, very talented. Guys are very versatile. I’m glad that international players’ impact continues to be pretty high and we have some defining players in the league.”
Porzingis credits the latest movement to what came before. “I think they gave us even more confidence,” Porzingis told Yahoo Sports, “and I think we’re coming in with more force to go in and take it all.”
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Source : https://sports.yahoo.com/international-exchange-next-wave-international-stars-162625548.html