When the NBA and the Knicks agreed to play in Europe this season, Kristaps Porzingis was no doubt a big reason why.
But the Latvian ‘Unicorn’ is not only unavailable to play in London on Jan. 17 against the Wizards, he’s unlikely to travel for the five-day trip while rehabbing from ACL surgery, according to coach David Fizdale.
The coach indicated Porzingis was part of that decision.
“Right now I think we’re leaning toward keeping him back because of the distance of the trip. We talked to him (Friday), I got to spend some time with him, which was nice,” Fizdale said. “And he’s in a really great groove right now with his workouts and his development. He was on the court today with one of the coaches. So we’re leaning toward most likely keeping him back.”
Porzingis was not with the Knicks for their two-week road trip that started just after Christmas, and has only been at road games in Brooklyn. The news of him probably missing the Europe trip arrived on the same day Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, speaking on his podcast, said there have been rumbles and rumors that the Knicks are holding Porzingis back from playing at all this season. Beck said it’s a source of tension between team and star.
As the Daily News reported last week, there’s disconnect that could affect Porzingis’ future with the Knicks. Perhaps Fizdale bridged some of it during their conversation Friday.
“Obviously he misses playing,” Fizdale said. “That part has been hard. But he’s starting to get stronger so he’s feeling better and he seems to be in a really good place.”
Porzingis will be a restricted free agent in the summer after becoming the first All-Star under the modern CBA to not have his rookie contract extended. According to the Knicks, Porzingis is out until at least mid-February pending a re-evaluation.
Fizdale said there weren’t any major updates in his rehab.
“Still kind of the same. We’re still being cautious I would say,” he said. “But at the same time just pushing, getting to the next level, jumping and moving, his strides and all of that stuff.
Fizdale said he’s been trying not to think of Porzingis because the potential is a tease.
“(Friday) I walked by and just put my hand up like this (holds hand in front of face). Because it’s just for me, it’s like, I can’t even say what it is,” he said. “God, I’ve got this 7-foot beast here, so I’ll literally be like this (hand in front of face).
“(Porzingis) started laughing. He said, ‘Don’t look, coach. Don’t look.’”
Based on the workouts with assistant coach Kaleb Canales, Fizdale said there has been no dropoff in Porzingis’ movements.
“That I don’t see. I haven’t seen him move in a way that makes me go, ‘Uh oh,’” Fizdale said. “I think we’re going about it the right way. His body looks great. He looks strong, he’s defined. It’s just a matter of time, and when we get him, we’ll be happy.”