New York City: An attorney for Kristaps Porzingis acknowledged Saturday that a woman has accused the NBA star of rape, but says the Dallas Mavericks forward “unequivocally” denies the allegation.
Lawyer Roland Riopelle said the claim against the player was part of an extortion attempt that is being investigated by the FBI.
Citing unidentified law enforcement officials, news organizations reported earlier that a woman went to police Thursday and said Porzingis raped her in his Manhattan apartment last year while he was playing for the Knicks.
NYPD officials declined to comment.
While playing for the Knicks last year, Porzingis suffered a major knee injury during a game at Madison Square Garden against the Milwaukee Bucks that the Knicks lost. He then went home and invited the woman to his luxury Manhattan apartment where she told police she was sexually assaulted.
“We made a formal referral to federal law enforcement on December 20th, 2018, based on the accuser’s extortionate demands,” Riopelle said in a statement.
The attorney says the NBA was also notified.
Porzingis, a 23-year-old native of Latvia, was traded to the Mavericks in January. But he’s not expected to play with the team till next season while he recovers from the injury.
The alleged attack happened Feb. 7, 2018, at the soaring Sky building in Midtown West, the woman told cops after walking into the 10th Precinct station house.
The woman — who is in her 20s and also lived in the building — told cops the NBA star visited her apartment at around 2 a.m. and that she accepted his invitation to go back to his posh pad.
Once inside, the towering, 7-foot-3 Latvian allegedly held her down and raped her, she told cops, according to sources.
The NYPD’s Special Victims Division has taken over the case, the sources said. Porzingis had not been charged as of Saturday night.
The woman told cops she waited more than a year to talk to police because the player allegedly promised to give her money to keep her quiet, the sources said. She told cops he promised to give her $68,000 to pay for her brother’s college tuition — but then reneged, the sources said.
It is unclear if any money ever changed hands between the two.
Porzingis denies the allegation “unequivocally,” said his lawyer, Roland G. Riopelle.
“We made a formal referral to federal law enforcement on December 20th, 2018, based on the accuser’s extortionate demands,” he said.
“We also alerted the National Basketball Association months ago and they are aware of the ongoing investigation of the accuser by federal law enforcement. We cannot comment further on an ongoing federal investigation,” Riopelle said.
“We have been instructed by federal authorities not to comment,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in an e-mail, which he CC’d to NBA officials and Porzingis’ reps.
Hours before the alleged attack, the then-Knicks forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a 103-89 trouncing by the Milwaukee Bucks at the Garden.
When Porzingis returned home from his ACL-tear diagnosis, he joined his two brothers and longtime physiotherapist, Manolo Valdivieso, in downing at least one shot of tequila, according to a 23-minute documentary about his rehab.
“I think that night we got back home, we made four shots,’’ his brother and agent Janis Porzingis said.
“I just said: ‘To a new beginning.’ ” We drink the shot and started the next day as a new beginning. That’s what we did.”
“The shock moment. I would say lasted for a day and half,’’ Janis added.
“When you know those things happen, you never think it’s going to happen to him. It’s a shock. You can’t believe that’s happening actually.”
Porzingis was traded to Dallas on Jan. 31. The Mavericks were in Miami on Thursday; they play again at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in Oklahoma City.
Asked if they’d been made aware of the rape allegation, a Knicks spokesman said: “This is Kristaps’ personal matter and not related to the Knicks.”
But the Knicks had indeed given the Mavericks advance notice of the pending rape allegation before the trade.
“The league office had been previously made aware of the allegations,” he added of the NBA.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass confirmed, “We are aware of the situation.”
Porzingis, selected fourth by the Knicks in the first round of the 2015 draft, was dubbed the “Unicorn” by ex-Thunder forward Kevin Durant.
“He can shoot, he can make the right plays, he can defend, he’s a 7-footer that can shoot all the way out to the 3-point line,” Durant said in 2016.
“That’s rare. And block shots — that’s like a unicorn in this league.