The 7-foot-3 Porzingis didn’t hesitate. He fed the 6-foot-11 Hernangomez who faked left, spun right and scored.
“There are a lot of teams that would love to have two young big men like those guys,’’ an NBA scout said. “They can make a terrific frontcourt for a long time to come.’’
The rest of the NBA will get a chance tonight (9 p.m. TNT) to see what Knicks fans have been witnessing all season. Porzingis and Hernangomez will play for the World Team in the Rising Stars Challenge.
Porzingis took the league by storm last season as a rookie. His ability to knock down the three, block shots and handle the ball put him in an elite fraternity with the likes of Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Hernangomez was a relative unknown when he began his rookie season. But it quickly became apparent the 6-11, 240 pounder had a remarkably quick first step to go along with linebacker strength.
As coach Jeff Hornacek has marveled on more than one occasion, Hernangomez is absolutely fearless. Whether it’s Brook Lopez or Marcin Gortat, Hernangomez doesn’t back down.
Hernangomez was a late selection for the game. He got the call when Emmanuel Mudiay withdrew because of back spasms. Hernangomez, who has gotten more time recently with the hamstring injury to Joakim Noah, is averaging 9.6 points and 8.7 rebounds in just 22.5 minutes in his last 10 games.
“I did have plans with my brother [Juancho], going to go to Mexico a couple days,” Hernangomez told reporters. “Now I have to move my plans a few days even more. It’s unbelievable. I’m excited to be in the rookie game. I’ll try to enjoy it, have fun this weekend.
“Then I will be on the beach with my brother. So I have time for both things, enjoy All-Star weekend and then enjoy the All-Star break, also.”
The Knicks are one of just five NBA teams that have two players in the Rising Stars Challenge, which pits a team of U.S. born players against a team of rising international stars.
This will mark at least the third time that Porzingis and Hernangomez have worn the same jersey. In addition to being Knicks teammates, the two big men played together for Baloncesto Sevilla in Spain’s Liga ACB.
They became close friends. When the Knicks acquired the rights to Hernangomez in exchange for two second-round draft pick — a deal that is looking better and better for New York with each game — Porzingis sang his friend’s praises to management.
With Hernangomez developing as a low-post threat who can knock down a 15-footer and Porzingis emerging as one of the elite stretch fours in the league, the Knicks could be positioned for years to come in the frontcourt. Hernangomez is 22 and Porzingis is 21.
“And they know how to play together,’’ said the scout. “They enjoy playing together.’’
Porzingis emerged on the scene with a smile on his face, and a game that dazzled fans. He is the first player in NBA history to score at least 1,500 points, block 185 shots and drain 140 threes in his first 100 games.
This sophomore season has been a bit of a learning experience for Porzingis. Opposing teams have made him the second point of emphasis on the scouting report behind Carmelo Anthony. Soreness in his left Achilles tendon and a stomach bug has slowed him of late.
Porzingis still ranks among the top four in seven statistical categories among NBA sophomores including second in blocks (2.0) and rebounds (7.1), but his numbers have dipped. He averaged 20.1 points shooting 46-percent from the field in the first 32 games but 14.0 points on 41.9-percent shooting in the last 17 games.
“There are moments you feel like you need a break during the season, but with the way the season moves on, you get a day off and you’re good to go again,” Porzingis said. “So it’s not really that I need a break, more mentally than physically, maybe.”
“I think everything for me is going in a good way,” Hernangomez said. “I always said since I was a kid if you work hard every day something good is going to happen. Now I feel like from the beginning of the season I work hard every day, I try to do all the stuff the coaches teach me and the good advice my teammates give me.
“Now I have a chance to start a few games, I have a chance to be in the rookie game. I’m happy that things are going in a good way for me.”