When New York Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson initiated the selection of Latvian prospect Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth overall pick in last June's NBA Draft while passing on heralded prospects such as point guard Emmanuel Mudiay and center Willie Cauley-Stein, the groans from the Empire State faithful followed.
Knicks fans chastised the organization for opting for what appeared to be a long-term development project over an established performer like Mudiay or Cauley-Stein, flushed with anxiety that the Porzingis era would take years to develop.
Contrasting those responses, however, is the fact that the rapidly-improving Porzingis is set to start in New York's season opener against the Milwaukee Bucks next Wednesday night, per the implications of second-year head coach Derek Fisher.
Fisher indicated following the Knicks Wednesday afternoon practice that the 7'3" enigma of an athlete would be receiving the start in Thursday night's preseason finale against the Boston Celtics, a lineup which is expected to mirror the one which will grace the floor as New York tips off their season at BMO Harris Bradley Center on October 28.
Porzingis will start alongside a veteran-laden cast, including point guard Jose Calderon, shooting guard Arron Afflalo, small forward Carmelo Anthony, and big man Robin Lopez, who the Knicks signed to a four-year, $54 million deal in the offseason.
Fisher told ESPN.com concerning the lineup: "Overall health should allow us tomorrow [against the Celtics] to play in a way that would be consistent with how we'll start the season in terms of rotation. I think the defense has to respect each of those guys for who they are and what they can do on the floor."
Opposing defenses will certainly have to respect the skill set of Porzingis, who has displayed a developed back-to-the-basket arsenal of moves in addition to his ability to slash and knock down outside shots.
Over the course of three preseason appearances, the first-rounder has averaged 7.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 34 percent from the field and an impressive 43 percent from three-point range.
According to Fisher, Porzingis and his comrades in the starting lineup possess the ability to receive minutes at the conclusion of close games as well.
"It's a group of guys that can be at the end of a game as well," Fisher said. "I think it's really important for us to find five guys that are comfortable with end game situations."