Over seven months after his ACL surgery, Kristaps Porzingis remains immersed in a “very conservative” rehab process and does not know when he’ll play again, or even if he’ll return at all this season.
Just like the rebuilding Knicks, the Latvian is taking the long view and has not started sprinting yet.
“We’ve done things differently because there is no protocol for a 7-3 guy,” Porzingis said. “There is no timetable for my type of body, my size and all that. So we’ve done things differently, very conservative and at the same time killing myself working. We’re just going to have to keep moving forward, keep progressing and see when is the right time for me to be back.”
When asked if there’s a chance he sits out the entire season, Porzingis said, “It’s really hard to say. There’s no timetable, as I said. I am going to be back when I am healthy and medically cleared. And whenever that is, that’s when it’s going to happen.”
It’s easy to understand why Porzingis’ camp is averse to urgency. His team is preaching patience and protecting its future draft picks from trade suitors because the Knicks are expected to be in the lottery. Porzingis also hasn’t been offered the five-year maximum contract extension, and it’s unlikely the Knicks will make that deal until next summer because it’ll save them $10 million in cap space.
So why rush him back?
Porzingis said he has started shooting drills and “light running,” but he’s also being held back by his doctors. Those projections of a Christmas return for Porzingis are beyond optimistic — more like impossible.
“Of course, I’m hungry, and I want to be on the court as soon as possible. So it’s good that I have a good team around me, good people around me that are holding me back when I need to be held back, and telling me to be patient when I need to be more patient,” Porzingis said. “It’s been a long process, already been 7 1/2 months. So obviously I’m getting itchy and I want to get back on the court as soon as possible but it won’t happen until I am 110 percent and medically cleared.”
Porzingis spent all his summer in Europe, choosing to rehab in Spain at the Real Madrid facilities. He returned to New York last week and plans on being around the Knicks as much as possible during the season, even on the road. He was impressed with David Fizdale’s gesture of flying to Latvia to spend time with his family over the summer. It was a trip no other Knicks executive or coach made in the previous three summers, with the exception of former assistant Josh Longstaff.
“It was important. That was really nice that he came all the way to Latvia, came all the way to Liepaja to come visit me and spend some time with me and his wife,” Porzingis said. “And it was good. He came to see how I worked, what the facilities looked like where I was working during the summers. We spent time talking about basketball, talking about life. His personality and my personality and so on. So we got to know each other a little bit. And we spent some really, really productive days together.”
Still, Porzingis has been around long enough to know it’s best to consume the “good vibes” of preseason with proper perspective. The mood around the last three Media Days was equally optimistic, before misery and losing consumed the franchise by January. He’s already had four coaches since being drafted by the Knicks in 2015.
“So far it’s good vibes around here, good energy around here. It’s good to be in an environment like this right now. We’ll see, I just got here from Europe, I’m still adjusting to the time difference,” he said. “But there’s good energy here and that’s the first thing I saw and am happy about.
“Every new season there’s good and positive energy, obviously. It’s when things go south when you have to stay mentally strong and keep pushing forward. It is a lot of new faces and it is a good energy. That’s all I can say for now.”