Centers of attention: SNL's Leslie Jones fixes the Knicks and chats with Kristaps Porzingis
This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Feb. 27 Entertainment Issue. Subscribe today!
Allison Glock asked the "Saturday Night Live" star and courtside regular at Madison Square Garden what she would do to turn around the Knicks. Then, she sat down for a little one-on-one coaching with Kristaps Porzingis. Here's what she had to say:
ADVISORY: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE
I WATCH THE Knicks a lot. In 2014, I got tickets to my first Knicks game. They played so awful, I swore I would never, ever come to another game. I've been playing basketball since the sixth grade, so I really do know the sport. I was like: They f---ing suck.
But I gave them another chance. I saw some good ball being played. When I'm out, I find myself talking about what it is that the Knicks need to do.
First of all: Leave Carmelo alone! Carmelo is doing his f---ing job. I understand that Melo takes s---, but I don't know why. He gets the f---ing points. I would love him to play a little more defense, but I understand why he doesn't. If he was younger, then I'd say, yeah, yeah, we need to have a little more come from Carmelo. If Carmelo stops shooting, y'all are going to be pissed. Carmelo needs to shoot as much as f---ing possible.
The Knicks are not going to be a championship team with that drama bulls---. They need to find a solid leader. I don't mean no harm, but I don't think they got one now. Someone needs to be in charge and lead. I need to have a meeting with the coach.
Who is the damn coach? Because every time I go, I see a person who looks like the coach, but he ain't coaching. Am I wrong? I don't think he's looking at the team that he has, because if he did, there would be a different lineup.
Derrick Rose -- I just love him to death, and I want to trust him. But I don't. I always think when he goes in for that drive, there's like a 50-50 chance: Is he going to get his ass knocked out, or is he going to make the shot?
I want him to get a little stronger, as far as being captain. He can't be having his little trips. Like, flying home type of s--- and you don't tell a m-----f-----. Not cool. If you're going to be the captain of the team, be the captain of the team.
And then there's Kristaps Porzingis. He already knows how I feel about him. I mean, it's great that you are over 7-feet tall and can shoot a 3-pointer and all. But I would really love to see him in the bottom banging on the boards too.
They are a good team. What they lack is f---ing defense. That's my biggest problem with the Knicks. In other words, they win games by like 10 to 15 points, when they should be winning by like 30 to 40 points.
Lee! Lee! Lee! Courtney Lee is one of my favorite players. He knows how to shoot the 3-pointer, and he knows how to follow his shot too. He's always where you never think he's going to be. He's a good hustler.
To me, Brandon Jennings, he's the top guard. When Jennings gets in there, he makes s--- happen. That's just what I think.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas? Boy, he gives me a heart attack every time he touches the ball. Because either he's hot or he's not. And I don't think he knows what the f--- the difference is.
They lack fundamentals. Like blocking out. You know, that can cost you a championship. They have good defensive players; Joakim Noah is a great defensive player, but Noah only lasts so long because he's injured. And Kyle O'Quinn is great at banging the boards and stuff, but he's young. They're young. They haven't developed a real defensive backup.
Now, I know how good a coach Phil Jackson is, but I'm wondering what philosophy he had and what is he trying to pass on to the team? Or is he just not advising the team? He should be the main person who knows that Carmelo is doing, what he's supposed to be doing. They shouldn't be in some b---- fight. Of all people, he should know Carmelo really only has a good three years left, maybe.
So shut the f--- up, let him play his years, and just be recruiting other people on the side. Carmelo is going to retire in New York. Don't let that not happen. Let's not do another Shaquille O-f---ing-Neal.
This year, I've gone and really enjoyed the game. The trades seem to be kind of working. I try to go to as many home games as I can during the season.
Yeah, they need improvement, but if this is where I'm going to live, if this is going to be my home team, then I can represent.
LIVE FROM NEW YORK
Porzingis was the first 7-foot rookie to average 14 points per game, seven rebounds per game and 1.9 blocks per game and shoot 33 percent from 3. This year he's only gotten better. No wonder he's called a "unicorn." But how well will he do with Jones' coaching?
Do you guys read each other's tweets?
PORZINGIS: I have an account, but I'm not on it.
JONES: I handle my own account. I can't trust nobody to do it.
Leslie, you mentioned a few things on that account about how he could improve his game a little bit.
JONES: Oh damn. You just don't call me out like that.
PORZINGIS: Let me download Twitter real quick.
JONES: I tell him the same thing. I want him to get in the weight room so he can make his arms strong, and then you can help us out defensively.
Were you aware of this advice before?
PORZINGIS: I wasn't. Oh wow.
Wow. This is awkward.
JONES: Now you've got me in trouble with KP. What is wrong with you?
PORZINGIS: I understand the people here in New York. They always want to give advice and make you better. So I'll take that as criticism, and I'll get in the gym and work. That's what I do.
JONES: You know, I come from old-school basketball, so anybody who's taller than 7 feet, they not supposed to be above the free throw line.
PORZINGIS: That's old-school mentality. You gotta change your mindset a little bit. I get a lot of things from people. Like, "Oh, stop shooting 3s. You're 7-3." Kinda the same thing.
JONES: I want you to shoot the 3s 'cause you f---ing hit the 3s! I just want you to do some power moves too, 'cause they scared of you, you know what I'm sayin'? You come toward me? I'm gonna get the f--- outta the way.
PORZINGIS: Right, right. OK.
JONES: You have to know my first lesson in basketball was just get in the middle of the key and hold my hands up.
PORZINGIS: Exactly! That's because you're big and the coach tells you to go under the basket.
Leslie, what's your basketball background?
JONES: Oh, I played basketball since the sixth grade. College, high school. All that.
JONES: A forward/center, thank-you. I wasn't allowed to shoot jump shots 'cause I was over 6 feet tall.
KP, what's your comedy background?
PORZINGIS: Started since the sixth grade. (Laughs.)
JONES: He's funny as hell!
You guys seem to have, like, a little chemistry happening.
JONES: That's my boy. I yell at him enough. I know he hear me on the side. "Shoot the ball, KP!"
PORZINGIS: When I play, I don't really hear too much stuff. I try to focus. But I see her on the side, like, jumpin' up and down, tryin' to help us on defense. I'm like, "Wow."
That's what you want in a fan, though, right? That kind of passion?
JONES: It's a lie. I'm like the female Spike Lee.