KP Climbing Ladder to Ultimate Goal

Kristaps Porzingis played his first game as an NBA All-Star Thursday night.

His numbers (21 points on 7-of-16 shooting, seven rebounds and one blocked shot) weren’t overwhelming but that’s not what caught the eye of a former NBA coach.

“I was impressed that he played after missing the Golden State game when he tweaked his knee,’’ said the coach. “If you’re going to be an All-Star, the leader of your team, you have to show you can play through pain.

“There’s a difference between playing hurt and playing injured. The great ones play through pain. Teammates see that.’’

[Watch Knicks-Suns Tonight on MSG & MSG GO]

KP has entered the next chapter in his NBA career – an All-Star in his third season. It’s the next rung on the ladder. Porzingis recognizes that’s exactly what it is: Not the top of the ladder but the next rung.

“I was happy, of course,” Porzingis told reporters when the All-Star rosters were announced. “A dream of mine came true. I’m an All-Star this year and it’s only the beginning. I think it’s a dream of every NBA player and every kid before he makes the NBA.”

Kristaps Porzingis became the first Latvian and second-youngest Knick to earn an All-Star nod. The Knicks' young star speaks about what the honor means to him and gives an update on his sore knee.

Prior to the Knicks 130-118 loss in Denver, KP learned who his teammates will be on Team LeBron: In addition to James, KP will wear the same jersey as Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, John Wall and Russell Westbrook among others.

“I like my teammates,” Porzingis told reporters.

Ya think?!

Kristaps Porzingis will be on Team LeBron after "King James" selected the 22-year-old during the 2018 NBA All-Star Draft.

Porzingis said he hopes to learn from his fellow All-Stars. Certainly, the Knicks have to find a way to get better on the road, especially on defense. They surrendered 73 points in the first half to the Nuggets, who shot 60-percent from the field for the game.

“Defense is not talent — it’s intensity and communication,’’ Porzingis said. “Part of it was defense. Part of it was they had a good night.’’

“That’s exactly what you want to hear from your best player,’’ said the coach. “Knicks fans have to remember this is a young team and KP is what, 22? It’s always got to be about the team. I think he’s getting that.’’

He is.

Kristaps Porzingis gives his take on the Knicks' defensive effort in the loss to Denver.

After being told by his brother, Janis, that he had been selected as an All-Star, KP focused on the Knicks more than himself.

The great ones crave the ring, the piece of jewelry that leaves no omissions on a player’s resume.

“The team success is very important,’’ Porzingis said. “And there are ups and downs during the season. I still believe the playoffs are achievable for us. That’s the goal for us. Nobody is expecting us to win a championship this year. I try to play as consistent as I can to help the team.”

The Knicks (21-28) look to snap a three-game losing streak tonight (8:30 p.m.; MSG Network) when they play the Suns (17-31) in Phoenix.

[5 Facts to Know for Knicks-Suns]

It’s the final contest of a seven-game road swing. The Knicks can finish with a respectable 3-4 record on the trip but the defense has to be better.

“We did a nice job earlier in the season,’’ coach Jeff Hornacek told reporters in Denver. “We were getting after it. We’re just guarding guys now. We’re not guarding with any force.’’

The Knicks have a force in Porzingis. He leads the league in blocked shots with 2.3 swats per game and is averaging 23.2 points.

The All-Star game honor has been earned. Porzingis said it gave him a feeling of satisfaction. But he’s not satisfied.

“It gives you motivation and hunger to keep going and not stop at the first good thing,’’ he said.

[Watch Knicks-Suns Tonight on MSG & MSG GO]