“Obviously he took a lot of pressure off of everybody. We’ve got to understand that,” Porzingis said.
“He was always the No. 1 focal point for the other team and I realize that. And now I’m going to be one of those guys that the other team is going to focus on. That’s going to make things more difficult for me, so it’s going to be different. It’s going to be way different. He draws so much attention and there might be more attention on me. So I have to be ready for that.”
And that’s not just during the games.
Anthony was the one who faced the toughest questions from reporters while other teammates could quickly escape as the losses mounted. And he was the one willing to speak up about social issues, around the country or in his homes in New York or Baltimore.
The Knicks acknowledged that side of Anthony on Monday, donating $100,000 to his relief efforts in Puerto Rico, his father’s hurricane-devastated homeland the Knicks had visited with him a few years ago.
The team believed Anthony would be with them Monday until just a few days ago. They hadn’t been able to find a trade that suited the franchise or player, and on Friday said they planned for him to be there when training camp opened.
But discussions with the Thunder moved quickly that night and into Saturday morning, and by the afternoon New York had agreed to the trade that brought Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick to New York.
“He had made his sentiments known, as had we, and if there was something that made sense, we were going to move forward without him,” general manager Scott Perry said. “If it didn’t we were going to move forward with him, and this just happened to make enough sense to move forward without him.”
Porzingis hoped Anthony would remain in New York, though understood why the move to Oklahoma City was better for someone he called a mentor and big brother. Kanter also believes the change of scenery will benefit the 33-year-old All-Star, who thanked the organization and city in an essay on his website.
“I think he’s going to do a lot of good things in Oklahoma City, and there’s not much distractions,” Kanter said. “It’s a smaller city of course, you can focus on basketball. I think that’s what he needed. He can focus on basketball and just go out there and do his thing.”
Kanter was giving a basketball clinic for orphans in Oklahoma City when he learned of the deal and has been beaming ever since about the move to a big city – one with plenty of Turkish restaurants – after the native of Turkey previously played for Utah and the Thunder.
He played in some pickup games this summer with Anthony, who would have still been the Knicks’ best offensive weapon if he remained. It appears that will now be Porzingis, the 7-foot-3 forward from Latvia who will be entering his third season.
He spent the summer back home, leading the national team in the European championships and didn’t return to New York until Sunday, the day Anthony arrived in Oklahoma City.
Porzingis wouldn’t address his decision to skip his exit meeting with Knicks management before leaving. He only wanted to discuss the team to which he returned – the one that’s now his.