Charlotte Hornets

Any chance Kristaps Porzingis ends up a Charlotte Hornet? His best friend has a plan

Charlotte Hornets’ Willy Hernangomez on best friend Kristaps Porzingis being traded to Mavericks

Charlotte Hornets’ Willy Hernangomez on best friend Kristaps Porzingis being traded to the Dallas Mavericks.
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Charlotte Hornets’ Willy Hernangomez on best friend Kristaps Porzingis being traded to the Dallas Mavericks.

Kristaps Porzingis is Charlotte Hornets center Willy Hernangomez’s best frend. Hernangomez loved playing with Porzingis before and wants to play with him again.

So Hernangomez has already planted a seed should Porzingis, traded Thursday from the New York Knicks to the Dallas Mavericks, reaches unrestricted free-agency in the summer of 2020.

“I will try to get him here. I’m his friend. I would love to play with him (again). I will say, “KP., come here!’” Hernangomez told the Observer Friday.

“I’ve already told him; he knows how amazing Charlotte is. If he would come here, we’d sure welcome him. If not, we’ll play against him.”

Porzingis, one of the NBA’s top young big men, has missed all season following a torn ACL last winter. The Knicks dealt him Thursday for a package of players and future draft picks after Latvian Porzingis told Knicks management he did not see his long-term future in New York.

There’s been talk surrounding Thursday’s trade that Porzingis might sign the one-year qualifying offer on his rookie-scale contract, to become an unrestricted free agent in July of 2020. Taking that route, rather than the financial security of a long-term second NBA contract, is rare.

“I don’t know,” Hernangomez said when asked if he could see Porzingis signing the qualifying offer. “I think for him it’s trying to have a good year, (focusing on) getting back his rhythm.

“Maybe I could see him signing there, but I will try to get him here.”

Hernangomez and Porzingis both played in Spain professionally before being Knicks teammates. Hernangomez requested a trade off the Knicks last winter, resulting in the deal with the Hornets, where he is now the backup center.

Hernangomez is also close with Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic, having played with him in Spain. Doncic, a 19-year-old Slovenian, appears to be a favorite at this point in the season to end up NBA Rookie of the Year.

“They are two of my best friends. I was talking to KP one day about the trade (possibilities) and everything while playing (the online video game) Fortnight with Luka,” Hernangomez recalled.

“They’re going to be a good team. What are you going to do (defensively) in a pick-and-roll between Luka and KP? I’m the only one who really knows both of those guys.”

The Hornets play the Mavericks in Dallas Wednesday.

Hernangomez said the difference between Porzingis and Doncic is Doncic was always a basketball prodigy, while Porzingis needed more time to refine his skills.

“He’s taller than you think (at 7-3) and now he’s getting strong,” Hernangomez said of Porzingis. “He’s fast, he can shoot, he can pass and he’s been a professional already for six years.

“With Luka, he was very talented when he was 12. He was practicing with professionals when he was 13. I’m not surprised in any way by how he’s playing right now.”

Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell

Rick Bonnell is a sportswriter/columnist for the Charlotte Observer. He has been in Charlotte since 1988, when the NBA arrived, and has covered the Hornets continuously. A former president of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, Bonnell also writes occasionally on the NFL and college sports.
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