Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis put up 28 points -- 12 in the fourth quarter -- of a 104-97 loss to Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks Monday night.
His performance played right into comparisons of the two men. Both are European 7-footers who happen to be perimeter-shooting power forwards; not exactly common in the NBA.
After the game, Nowitzki embraced the comparisons with a caveat: Porzingis might be better.
"He's probably way ahead of the curve. When I was 20, I was scared to death out there," Nowitzki said, via ESPN.com. "He's almost averaging a double-double, so he's way better than I was at 20. So the comparison's probably unfair to me."
The rookie was quite flattered to get praise from a player he grew up admiring.
"That shows me that maybe I have the potential to one day be as great as [Nowitzki] is," Porzingis said. "I've got to keep working, and hopefully, I can be as good as he thinks I can be."
Maybe New York fans hope that happens, but the rest of the Eastern Conference probably can't think of anything worse.
Nowitzki has career averages of 22.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game and shoots 38% from downtown. He's been named an All-Star in 13 of his 17 seasons. But at least Eastern Conference teams like the Wizards don't have to deal with him that much.
They won't be so lucky when it comes to Porzingis. The Latvian product has 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per night so far this season.
The last rookie to put up those numbers or better in the East? Emeka Okafor in 2004-2005 (via StatMuse).
In fact, only 18 Eastern Conference rookies have topped Porzingis' points and rebounds per game since 1975. A handful of those names: Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning -- you get the idea.
Not one in that group took or made as many 3-pointers as the Latvian. He's hitting 36% of his shots from beyond the arc.
Porzingis could turn into a problem for the Wizards for many seasons to come, especially if his presence can lift New York into playoff contention.
Washington held him to a pedestrian 8 points and 6 boards in their first meeting. They'll play next when the Knicks visit Verizon Center on February 9, 2016.