Knicks coach David Fizdale acknowledged publicly for the first time the possibility of Kristaps Porzingis not playing this season, calling it an “if and when.”
Fizdale said he can’t think of or plan for a Porzingis return at this point because he doesn’t want to lose focus on the current group. Election Day was the nine-month anniversary of Porzingis tearing his ACL at the Garden against the Bucks. The timetable, though, counts from the time of surgery, which was Feb. 13.
“I’m not planning on — I’m looking at these guys right now,” Fizdale said after Thursday’s practice. ”I’m not even planning on KP at all. I can see instantly how he fits, but I’m just trying to keep my mind focused on them. Because that would just be a huge distraction for me mentally, hoping and wishing for KP, that 25, 28 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. I’ve got to lock in on these young bucks, keep them up to par.”
When asked specifically if he feels Porzingis won’t return in 2018-19, Fizdale said he needs to think that way for his own peace of mind but doesn’t have knowledge one way or another.
“Just mentally for me,” Fizdale said. “That’s somewhere else. I don’t want to get distracted personally as the coach, worried about if and when he’s coming back. I’d rather be focused on the day-to-day task with these guys, and when he gets back, that’ll just be a gift for me. You can get distracted as a coach, caught up in that world of when and hopefully soon and you lose focus on what you’re doing. And these guys deserve my undivided attention.”
According to sources, the Knicks expect Porzingis to return this season, but Fizdale’s rhetoric in recent weeks has been absent of Porzingis references. Porzingis hasn’t traveled with the team, which he was expected to.
Tellingly, Fizdale said Porzingis is not doing any more basketball activities than when training camp opened. He’s still doing light running and shooting — but not full jump shots.
“Sprinting, he’s not at that level yet,” Fizdale said.
It’s unclear if Porzingis’ urgency to get back was dimmed slightly by not receiving a contract extension by the Oct. 15 deadline. Sources have indicated Porzingis’ return is not based only on his physical health but his mental health as well, regarding if he’s ready to go full-bore on a surgically repaired knee.
Porzingis hasn’t spoken to media since training camp began in late September. He said then there’s no established information on 7-foot-3 players returning from ACL tears but added he would be back when he passes his strength tests on his legs.
On why Porzingis hasn’t traveled, Fizdale said: “Right now we just feel like let’s keep him in his groove, keep that leg where it is.
“Travel is tough with rehabbing it. So right now we’ve all come to the agreement, on a lot of these trips we’re just keeping him home. He’s going to come on some. He’s got a good rhythm going. We like the routine we got him on right now. And so I’m OK with it. He’s really lived up to everything I’ve asked from him. He’s even asked to come on some trips. When it’s right, it’s right, and we’ll do it. He’s been leading. He’s been engaged. He’s been doing everything we asked of him.”
In late June, Knicks president Steve Mills said on radio that he would know more of a timetable when Porzingis took his strength tests in late September, when he returned from Europe. However, the Knicks did not release a timetable then.
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