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Kristaps Porzingis to play for Latvia in European Championships

Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks looks on

Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks looks on during a game against the Golden State Warriors at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, March 5, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Kristaps Porzingis officially pledged his allegiance to the Latvian national team while revealing he hasn’t spoken to the Knicks since the season ended.

The Knicks’ star big man held a news conference Monday in his native Latvia to announce he would be playing for his country in this summer’s European Championships. During the news conference, Porzingis said he has not had “any contact” with the Knicks.

Porzingis skipped out on his end-of-season interview with president Phil Jackson and other Knicks officials because of frustration over all the drama surrounding the team and the direction of the franchise.

“To be honest, I don’t want to comment on anything that happened at the season’s end,” Porzingis said Monday, according to the New York Post. “Personally I did not have any contact with anybody from the club.”

In Porzingis’ two seasons with the Knicks they’ve gone 63-101 and he’s played for three coaches. This past season, with the Knicks changing game plans and philosophies on offense and defense, Porzingis said there was “a lot of confusion” and it was “from top to bottom.”

Multiple times on Monday, Porzingis said, “I don’t want to talk about what happened between me and the club,” the Post reported.

The 7-3 Porzingis averaged 18.1 points and 7.2 rebounds. But he only played in 66 games, missing 16 due to illness and injury. For the second straight year he ended the season watching from the bench. A back injury kept him out of the final five games.

Porzingis is viewed as a franchise cornerstone, and someone the Knicks plan to build around. But Jackson said during his end-of-season news conference that Porzingis isn’t ready to carry a team. Jackson also didn’t deem Porzingis untouchable.

In an interview with Sporta Avize, a Latvian magazine, Porzingis said he wants to spend his entire career with the Knicks. But winning is the most important thing. This interview was done before he declined to meet with Jackson.

“Absolutely, I want to stay here all my career,” Porzingis told the magazine. “But the thing I want most of all is winning.”

Porzingis also addressed the handling of the Carmelo Anthony situation. The Knicks talked to teams before the trade deadline about Anthony. Jackson also took what seemed to be shots at Anthony in the press and through Twitter during the season.

“This was a situation media did not hesitate to heat up more than it was in reality,” Porzingis told Sporta Avize. “I think there was some mistakes from Phil — things he maybe shouldn’t have said or written, things that made the situation worse or made him not look good. But at the same time — it’s that kind of business. I understand.”

The Knicks didn’t want Porzingis to play for his national team before his first two seasons so he could work with them and on his own.

Porzingis said he would work on his body this offseason and try to build up strength and stamina by doing some boxing workouts with Latvian fighter and WBC cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis.

The European Championships start in August. Porzingis said he would be back in time for the start of Knicks’ training camp in late September.

“My next focus is national team,’’ Porzingis said. “My third season is still far away. The main thing is to put in a lot of work during the summer to be ready, first for national team, then for next season.

“The European championships ends before the official NBA camp starts, so I have enough time to turn back to New York. I’ll be there on time.”


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