Knicks coach Kurt Rambis would prefer to have Kristaps Porzingis skip playing for Latvia
WASHINGTON — The Latvian national basketball team will play in a win-or-go-home tournament in July in Belgrade, Serbia, the result of which will determine whether Latvia gets to send a team to the Summer Olympics in Brazil.
If Knicks interim coach Kurt Rambis has his way, Latvia will be competing without its best player. Instead, Kristaps Porzingis will be busy lifting weights and working on his conditioning in Greenburgh, New York.
“If I had my choice, I think it’s obviously what I would want,” Rambis said Friday after the Knicks’ practice at Georgetown University. “I understand players’ commitments to their country and their desire to play for their country. But from a selfish standpoint, looking at it purely from a Knicks standpoint, yeah, we’d want him here working with us the whole time [in the summer].”
Porzingis said he has not made up his mind about playing in the qualifying tournament.
“It’s still up in the air,” he said. “Right now, trying to focus on the season. Once the season is over, I will have some time to make a decision. Sit down with family and my agent. We’ll make that decision. It’s an important thing for Latvia. I’m a proud Latvian, and I want to represent my country. So I have to really think about it and make a decision.”
The fact that the Knicks were talking about their summer plans in mid-March, a month before the end of the season, says volumes about what this season has been like. The Knicks (28-41) are close to being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. A loss to the Washington Wizards on Saturday night would guarantee them their third straight losing season.
Porzingis, who started off the season so strongly, has been showing wear and tear as he enters the home stretch. The 20-year-old rookie had his worst game of the season against Golden State on Thursday night, missing 10 of 11 shots and scoring only two points.
The Knicks believe he needs to have some recovery time in the offseason, time in which he can work on adding some muscle to his willowy 7-3 frame.
“A lot of the summer can be used to develop strength and work on aspects of your game that need development, and not necessarily play,” Rambis said. “When you play, you go back to your strengths and go back to your instincts. A lot of training and thought process in terms of how you will develop and change your game can happen over the summer. Sometimes playing can be bad, there can be too much of it. It’s not conducive to player development.”
The question came up again of whether Carmelo Anthony will waive his no-trade clause.
“Shoot, I don’t know,’’ he said. “Honestly, it’s hard to answer those type of questions when you really don’t know what’s going to happen towards the end of the summer. We still have a month left in this season. So to think about whether I’m going to be on the team next summer, that’s up for you to speculate.”