A kid in a Carmelo Anthony jersey appeared to cry. A man booed with force after removing his face from his hands. Another man chanted, "We want (Justise) Winslow."
These were some of the strongest on-camera reactions to the Knicks drafting power forward Kristaps Porzingis fourth overall in 2015. The unpopular pick from Latvia went on to exceed expectations with his on-court production.
When Porzingis returns to Madison Square Garden on Thursday in his first New York visit since forcing his way to the Mavericks last year, he will likely hear a similar wave of vitriol. It's an outcome, he said, to which he's resigned, given what he has seen on social media from Knicks fans since his exit.
"It's normal that they feel that way," Porzingis told reporters Wednesday. "All I can do is just look forward to what I have in front of me, not behind."
It will be difficult for Knicks fans to forget how Porzingis left the team.
After 2 1/2 impressive but injury-plagued seasons, Porzingis was shelved with a torn ACL and expected to miss the entire 2018-19 campaign. Last January, he held a meeting with team executives to express concern with the organization's culture and losing ways. He also expressed a desire to be dealt. Within two hours, New York shipped him to Dallas for a package of players headlined by Dennis Smith Jr.
Last March, a woman told New York police that Porzingis raped her on Feb. 7, 2018, in the building in which they both lived. The accusation has not led to legal or league consequences. Porzingis, through his attorney, claimed the woman was trying to extort him.
Porzingis was also bloodied this year in an apparent altercation at a Latvian nightclub.
The 24-year-old Porzingis has returned to NBA action this season after recovering from his ACL tear, forming a Euro connection with second-year guard Luka Doncic. He is averaging 18.3 points through nine games.
Porzingis' 10th contest of the season will come in New York, where he will confront his past despite a personal desire to move forward.