LAS VEGAS — David Fizdale can’t wait until Kristaps Porzingis is able to play again. The new Knicks coach envisions many ways of using the franchise player.
Fizdale likes the idea of playing Porzingis at center, and compared him to Anthony Davis in that role. But Fizdale also wants to use the 7-3 Porzingis at small forward sometimes and have “a whole bunch of wingspan” with that lineup.
“It really is a luxury for me to have a guy that I can move around at different positions,” Fizdale said after Thursday’s summer league practice. “I just see a lot of places I can use him to be dynamic for us.”
Porzingis can play and guard multiple positions. The key is keeping him healthy. He’s recovering from a torn left ACL, with no timetable for his return. Fizdale has planned a trip to Latvia shortly after summer league ends to sit down with Porzingis, get to know him, and show him all the ways he would like to use him.
“He’s going to get tired of me, but about two of those days over there we’re going to watch film in Latvia because I got so much stuff I’ve broken down and pulled,” Fizdale said. “Stuff that Jeff [Hornacek] was already doing from the year before. Stuff that was similar where I can show him from his own film, ‘Hey, I’m going to use you this way’ or ‘I’m going to use you this way.’ At least I have some visual examples.
“And I’ve got some tapes of other guys that played for me and the situations I’d like to play out of, and I can use those guys as examples for him as well.”
Fizdale has been consistent in saying he doesn’t like to limit players to a certain position. Porzingis is a natural stretch-four because of his ability to pull defenders away from the basket and knock down three-pointers. But the Knicks have played some of their best basketball with Porzingis at center, particularly defensively. Fizdale has noticed that, and he really likes the thought of playing a small lineup with Porzingis in the middle.
“Anthony Davis, you name him, he’s that,” Fizdale said. “It’s that dynamic guy who can outrun everybody but you can’t put a small on him. You put somebody too big on him he can pull him away from the rim. Defensively, he can guard everybody.”
Porzingis prefers to play power forward. But Fizdale told Porzingis how he wants to play him, and he said Porzingis is on board.
“In our conversations I just told him, ‘I don’t have a position for you. Are you cool with that?’ ” Fizdale said. “He’s like, ‘Absolutely.’ He’s like, ‘I don’t like being put in a box.’
“I’m not going to put him in a position to fail. I’m not going to throw him in a situation where he’s going against some brute out there and get beat to death. At the same time, our league doesn’t really have a lot of those guys anymore. He gives me a lot of flexibility to move him four, to five and even some three.”
Fizdale said he’s already thought of a lineup with 6-9 rookie Kevin Knox at shooting guard, Porzingis at small forward, 7-1 Luke Kornett at power forward and 7-1 rookie Mitchell Robinson at center.
“Put a whole bunch of wingspan with Kevin at the two and see how teams deal with that at the rim and with our length,” Fizdale said. “I can’t lock him into nothing.”