Even in Africa, Kristaps Porzingis’ opinion on New York hasn’t changed. The formerly disgruntled Latvian is over it and wants to be a Knick for life. He’s still hoping to play with Carmelo Anthony, but knows that may not be possible.
Taking a break from Latvia’s training camp for the European Championships, Porzingis embarked on an NBA promotional trip to Africa, on his 22nd birthday, and gave a rare interview about the Knicks to the league website.
“So far it’s been tough in New York, but my journey is only beginning and I hope to stay there my whole career,’’ Porzingis told NBA.com. “So as a city, we can have some fun and win some games and do something big. For me, it’s now home.’’
It’s not the first time Porzingis has spoken about his desire to stick with the Knicks after his protest over how former team president Phil Jackson was running the franchise chaotically. After blowing off his exit meeting with Jackson in mid-April, Porzingis told The Post before leaving for Latvia that he wants to remain with the club.
“I love New York, I love New York,’’ Porzingis said.
At a kids camp in Latvia two weeks ago, Porzingis said in his native tongue he wanted to be in New York forever because the players would be “kings” if the team wins.
In the NBA interview, Porzingis wasn’t asked his reaction to Jackson’s firing. The Zen Master threatened to trade Porzingis in response to being stiffed on the exit interview. But the 7-foot-3 Latvian weighed in on Anthony, who is seeking a trade to the Rockets while the Knicks hope to deal him elsewhere if he waives his no-trade clause.
“He’s an All-Star and incredible player and I’ve learned so much from him,’’ Porzingis said. “There’s still so much for me to learn from him. I would love to have him around and keep playing alongside him. But it is what it is. It’s a business. If it ends well, I don’t know. It’s out of my hands.
“I’m really thankful for these couple of years I’ve been with him, just seeing how he works during the summer. It proves he wants to win and he wants to be great. I’m sure he’ll make the right decision for himself.”
With Jackson and his triangle gone, Porzingis sounded hopeful the culture will change for the better but he’s still unsure.
“For me a lot of things were surprising and unexpected – we’ll see when I get there and start working out with the guys,’’ Porzingis said. “We’ll see what has changed. It’s hard with everything going on in New York but once I get there I’ll see things more clearer.’’
Porzingis hasn’t been in a playoff race in his first two seasons and indications are the club may be playing for the lottery next season, especially if Anthony is moved.
“We’re going to have a lot of new guys,’’ Porzingis said. “Every year is almost like a new year. There will be a lot of changes. I’m going into the season hoping we have a group of guys who want to work hard and win. That’s what’s important.
“Look, I was so happy when I got drafted by New York. I was never worried about the big stage or anything like that. I’ve always enjoyed that. I can envision (a championship one day) and see it. But we’re still a long way from there. As we get better, if we can all see that goal at the end and work towards it, anything can happen.”
Porzingis has regularly posted his workout video clips on social media and teammate Mindaugas Kuzminskas confirmed to The Post that Porzingis has been going at it tirelessly.
“Been working three times a day, lifting weights, running on the track, swimming, basketball, all kinds of stuff,” Porzingis said. “Just trying to get myself stronger for next season. It’s going to be a big year for me. I’m so excited, putting in so much work. I can’t wait play again and have it show on the court.”