GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Knicks did not sign Kristaps Porzingis to a contract extension before Monday’s 6 p.m. deadline, turning their franchise player into a restricted free agent next summer.
That doesn’t mean the 7-3 Latvian isn’t a part of the team’s plans. Although he is injured, he remains their best player and they still can keep him by matching his best outside offer next summer. Plus, by doing it this way, the Knicks can save $10 million, increasing their ability to add another high-priced player next summer.
Porzingis is rehabilitating his left knee after having surgery to repair a torn ACL last February. He is not expected to be back until at least February and could miss the entire season.
New coach David Fizdale believes that Porzingis has bought into the team’s long-term vision.
“Yeah, it’s been nothing to indicate anything different,” Fizdale said. “I’m always looking at it from a connection standpoint, and there is nothing that’s told me that there’s any disconnection. He’s having fun with these guys, he’s engaging with me, with the staff. I just see a teammate out there, I see a guy that’s just trying to contribute in any way he can. And to me, that says a guy that’s engaged and locked in.
“All I know is he’s been awesome to have in the gym. It’s like having another coach. The film sessions, he speaks up as much as any coach on our staff. And what he has to say is exactly what we need said . . . He asks great questions. Certain other guys are shy about asking a question, so KP will ask a question just to take that pressure off that guy. So that’s the part I’ve been paying attention to.”
Center Enes Kanter said Porzingis has been doing everything he can to help the team, even if he’s not playing.
“He’s so involved in everything now, with practice, in games, with shootarounds, and when you see an All-Star guy just cheering for you, clapping for you, trying to talk to you, help you, it just gives you so much motivation,” Kanter said. “I’m happy to see him out there even if he’s not playing because he’s helping everybody so much.
“He knows we are not just his teammates, we’re his family. We are his brothers. We love him here. Of course, who wouldn’t want him? I love the guy, not just on the court. Off the court, he’s an amazing friend, and he’s been helping everybody out even when he’s not playing. Definitely, man, we’d love to have him here. It’s not a question.”
Notes & quotes: The Knicks also announced that they exercised their third-year option on Frank Ntilikina, who may or may not be their starting point guard in Wednesday night’s season opener against the Hawks. Fizdale said he likely will announce his starting five for that game after Tuesday’s practice.