GREENBURGH, N.Y. - In his first off-season leading the New York Knicks, Phil Jackson came up short trying to land Pau Gasol. Jackson may have landed his multifaceted forward a year later with Kristaps Porzingis of Latvia.
The Knicks selected the 6-foot-11 forward with the fourth pick of the NBA draft on Thursday night.
Porzingis sparks memories of Gasol for Jackson, who coached the Spanish forward while they were with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Pau was 227 (pounds) when he came into the league, something like that," Jackson told reporters at the Knicks training facility in Greenburgh. "This young man has better range, perhaps, than Pau does. A natural 3-point shooter."
Jackson said Porzingis — who is 19 years old and weighs 220 pounds — has a body type and athleticism similar to Gasol.
Porzingis averaged 10.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and one block in 33 games for Cajasol Seville in the Spanish League during the 2014-15 season.
"He shoots it with great ease," Jackson said. "He fits very well into what we like to run."
Porzingis proudly held up a Knicks jersey as he went into a media room at the league's draft showcase in Brooklyn, minutes after he was selected and many fans in the arena greeted him with loud boos.
"Lot of fans weren't happy they drafted me, I have to do everything in my hands to turn those booing fans into clapping fans," Porzingis said. "I was happy about it. Want to be part of this organization, the fans are harsh sometimes, that's how it is in New York and I'm ready for it."
Porzingis recorded 11.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for Cajasol Seville in 16 Eurocup games. He had worked out and interviewed with the Knicks leading up to the draft.
"We went through some of the stringent testing we do, to see what level of athleticism he brings to this and what's his growth potential," Jackson said. "We think there's going to be a good chance he makes rapid improvement, but we do know there's going to be a maturation process."
Kentucky centre Karl-Anthony Towns, Ohio State guard D'Angelo Russell and Duke centre Jahlil Okafor were off the board when New York drafted. Jackson indicated that the Knicks had received trade offers for the fourth overall pick, but those deals fell apart after the selections of Towns, Russell and Okafor.
"Those things fell the way that they did and we had what we wanted," Jackson said.
The fourth overall pick was New York's highest since selecting Patrick Ewing first overall in 1985.
The Knicks did not have a second-round selection going into the draft, but traded back in by shipping guard Tim Hardaway Jr. to Atlanta for the rights to Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant. New York then made another second-round deal for the rights to Spanish centre Guillermo Hernangomez from the Philadelphia 76ers, according to a Knicks official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the trade had not yet been finalized by the league.
Grant was picked at No. 19 with a selection that originally belonged to the Washington Wizards. The Wizards also traded two future second-round picks to the Hawks to trade up four slots for the rights to Kansas forward Kelly Oubre.
Grant played four years for the Irish, averaging 14.6 points and 5.8 assists in his career. He led Notre Dame in scoring last season, averaging 16.5 points and his 6.7 assists were seventh-most in the nation.
"I feel like I get them open looks and make the guys around me better, so we'll be ready to compete right away," said Grant, whose father is former NBA forward Harvey Grant. "The triangle has high basketball IQ players, and I think I'm one of those. I pick up on the offence really quickly and help the guys around me."
Philadelphia received two future second round picks for Hernangomez. He played with the last two seasons with Porzingis, averaging 10.4 points and 6.1 rebounds in 31 games last season. Hernangomez will play next season in Spain, the Knicks official said.
Hardaway, the 24th pick in the 2013 draft, averaged 11.5 points in 70 games last season.
New York missed the playoffs the last two seasons.
Following a 2014-15 season in which New York finished with the second worst record in the NBA at 17-65, the Knicks have significant holes at four of five positions.
New York's only position set for next season is small forward with Carmelo Anthony. After agreeing to a five-year, $124 million deal last July, Anthony was limited to 40 games last season because of left knee surgery in February.