Knicks coach David Fizdale, in a new interview from Latvia, said he told Kristaps Porzingis during his visit he wants him to be “the leader” of the Knicks this season despite an uncertain return from ACL surgery.
Fizdale and his wife, Natasha, finished up their five-day trip to Liepaja over the weekend to meet Porzingis for the first time, with the new Knicks coach believing the European journey is one small step to building a championship team.
“We talked about how Kristaps would take on a bigger role,” Fizdale told Sportacentrs.com in an article published Tuesday morning. “We will have a new team in which Kristaps will be quite a veteran. We talked about the ways in which I see him naturally becoming the leader of the team. Of course, I told him how we see him lifting his game to the next level. I said, ‘Let’s do this together.’ We went to the gym and the beach. Our get-together was great, I got a concrete and good impression of his home.”
The Knicks have yet to give an official timetable on Porzingis’ return, but estimates range from around Christmas to the anniversary of his surgery in mid-February. Porzingis will return to New York in early September after surprisingly rehabbing at Real Madrid this offseason.
“I want to take the Knicks to the championship,” Fizdale said. “This is my main and greatest goal — to win the title for New York. Every morning is with this thought. Visiting Latvia and building of relationships with players so that they are more than simple coach-player relations, I believe that establishing such a link is a way to overcome the difficulties in the playoffs.’’
Fizdale said some of the sordid stuff that led to Porzingis skipping his 2017 exit meeting with former Knicks president Phil Jackson and coach Jeff Hornacek were also addressed.
“I also touched on it a bit, but I think part of Kristaps is ready to go past it,’’ Fizdale said. “All that has happened so far is to leave in the past. Many changes have taken place in the team, we have many new characters. Mentally, especially after returning from injury, he is ready to strive for the new goals that await. I think that Kristaps is excited about the direction in which we go with the team.
“The meeting was more like two guys spending time together, just getting to know each other.”
The Fizdale interview was conducted Thursday by Latvian journalist Andrejs Silins and translated for The Post by Latvia native Alda Hershenhorn.
“Everyone expects us to take a few punches this year because we have a new team and Kristaps is injured,” Fizdale said, according to the translation. “Perhaps we cannot always ensure we will score the ball, but we can definitely develop good defense. I want to play a lot of transition basketball, play fast, but the only way to do this is to have a good defense first.
“Without Kristaps, it’s a chance to prepare the other guys for the moment Kristaps returns. We want Kristaps to come back to a team that already knows how to move without the ball, how to spread the court, what is a good and bad shot. All the things that a new team needs to learn.”
Source: Read Full Article