David Fizdale’s trip to Latvia this summer to visit with Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis appears to have been a successful one.
The Knicks coach, speaking to WNBC New York’s Bruce Beck in an interview this week, said Porzingis is “excited” about the direction of the team and likes the challenges Fizdale has put in front of him, which includes becoming the league's MVP.
Fizdale said during summer league in Las Vegas last month that he had planned to visit Porzingis shortly after summer league ended to get to know him and show him all the ways he would like to use him.
“Kristaps is excited,” Fizdale told Beck. “I’m telling you right now, he’s excited. We had fun.”
Fizdale, who was hired by the Knicks in early May, said a lot of his conversation with Porzingis focused on the culture and the environment the Knicks are trying to create.
“I really feel like that clicked with him,” Fizdale said.
Fizdale said in Las Vegas last month that he liked the idea of the 7-3 Porzingis playing center and also wants to play him at small forward. He compared Porzingis to fellow All-Star Anthony Davis of the Pelicans.
“I think he likes the challenge of me saying I want him to be the MVP, I want him to be defensive player of the year,” Fizdale said. “Real competitors, they want that. I’m going right at him. I want him to look at himself that way.”
Porzingis is recovering from a torn left ACL suffered in February and it remains unclear when he’ll be ready to play. Porzingis was named an All-Star for the first time in his career last season and averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 48 games last season.
Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry said last month they believe Porzingis can be a big lure for free agents in the summer of 2019 when the Knicks will have the necessary cap space to add a max salary player.
Fizdale said in Chicago at the NBA Draft Combine in May that his biggest goal this summer was to bond and connect with Porzingis. Fizdale told Beck that the trip to Latvia to meet with Porzingis was a “must.”
“For me and for my wife, to be able to experience his culture, to see how he and his family live day to day in that city, how he grew up, the things he ate growing up, all of the places he played and stuff, for him to share that with us and for his family to let us in that way and show us that hospitality was amazing,” Fizdale told Beck.