Kristaps Porzingis had not spoken to the media since the first day of training camp at the Knicks’ Westchester practice facility, and when he finally broke his silence Monday in Dallas, he left a lot of questions unanswered.
But whether he demanded a trade or was, as he said, surprised by the deal that sent him to Dallas on Thursday, the reality is that the player the Knicks planned on constructing their rebuild around is gone and now seen as the future for the Mavericks.
Asked if he had asked to be traded, he was cut off by Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who interjected: “This is Dallas. You can say nah.” But Porzingis answered, remaining as cryptic as he has with his Instagram posts directed at Knicks management.
“Right now, the situation is what it is,” Porzingis said. “I would rather just focus on what’s ahead of me than looking back. There might be a time I go more into detail about that situation, but right now I just want to focus on my new team, on the Dallas Mavericks.”
The Knicks and Porzingis have differed on exactly how the parting of the centerpiece of the team’s plans ended up being dealt so abruptly.
The Knicks have maintained that Porzingis — facing restricted free agency this summer and the possibility of becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020 — informed team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry on Thursday morning that he would not sign long-term with the team. He was traded later that day.
Porzingis’ initial reaction to the trade: “I was surprised. I was surprised. It was something unexpected, and my first impressions [of the Mavs] are great. It’s been a great 48 hours here. Everybody has welcomed me with open arms and I’m excited to be a part of this organization.”
While the constant losing, as well as the dysfunction that has accompanied much of his tenure in New York, soured him on the Knicks’ future, Porzingis and the Mavs seem to be on the same page. He spoke glowingly about the prospects of pairing with rookie Luka Doncic, giving the Mavs a 19-year-old and a 23-year-old as the cornerstones of their franchise. Doncic, whom Porzingis has known since their days playing in Spain, was seated in the audience for the news conference.
Asked if he plans on signing with the Mavs this summer, either a qualifying offer or long-term, Porzingis started to answer when Cuban stepped in again.
“I can answer that for you,” Cuban said. “Yeah, he does.”
Porzingis smiled and said, “There you go.”
When asked if it would be the one-year deal or a long-term contract, Cuban said: “Long-term. Our goal is to keep these two together for the next 20 years.”
For the Knicks, the move is a risky one. While Porzingis certainly provided uncertainty with his torn ACL, which has sidelined him since Feb. 6, 2018, and his unhappiness with the direction of the franchise, he still was a young star.
The Knicks already had reached out to the Pelicans, dangling Porzingis as a possible trade chip to obtain Anthony Davis, and ESPN reported Monday that the Knicks are one of four teams that Davis would be willing to sign with long-term if he is traded.
The possibility that they might have landed Davis, one of the best players in the league, will haunt the Knicks even more if they cannot strike gold in the free-agent market this summer with more than $70 million of cap space.
In the meantime, Porzingis will continue to rehabilitate. The Mavericks said they will not activate him this season.
“We’re putting all that together right now,” Cuban said. “So what the plan was in the previous organization really isn’t relevant at this point in time. We have our doctors. We’re working with his team. Right now, the plan, the 100-percent plan, is for him not to play.”
“That was the plan from the beginning, and we’re sticking to the plan,” Porzingis said. “And 20 months of not playing, obviously I expect there to be some rust or whatever. But I’m a guy that visualizes a lot how I play and watch a lot of film. Hopefully I’ll be quick to get back in my rhythm and feel the game again.”