In a late March interview with a Latvian sports magazine, Kristaps Porzingis said he wanted to spend the rest of his career with the New York Knicks — but he provided an important caveat.
“Absolutely, I want to stay here all my career. You never know what will happen. At the end of the day the thing I want most of all is winning. When the time comes, I should seriously start to think about it. Right now I just try to do my best,” Porzingis, 21, told Sporta Avize, according to a translation provided by the magazine.
Porzingis was then asked by the magazine if he would stay in New York rather than looking to sign with another team as a free agent if that club provided a better chance to win.
“Possible,” he said. “Time will show.”
Porzingis, who has two years remaining on his rookie contract, has been frustrated with the Knicks recently. He skipped exit meetings with team president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills earlier this month because of frustration over what he perceives as the dysfunction and drama surrounding the organization, team sources told ESPN.
According to sources, Porzingis is unhappy with the Knicks’ lack of direction. Under Jackson, the Knicks have struggled in Porzingis’ two seasons in New York, losing a combined 101 games. New York was projected as a playoff team by some entering the 2016-17 season, but it struggled to develop any cohesion en route to a 31-win season.
The Knicks drew negative attention for several off-court situations this season.
In February, Jackson and the Knicks talked to several teams about trading Carmelo Anthony after Jackson shared opinions on Anthony that were perceived as criticisms of the 10-time All Star. Porzingis addressed Jackson’s handling of the Anthony situation in the March interview.
“This was a situation media did not hesitate to heat up more than it was in reality. 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,” Porzingis said.
Porzingis, currently in his home country of Latvia, announced on Monday that he will play with the Latvian national team this summer in the European Championships. The Knicks recommended last summer that Porzingis not play with the national team in order to focus on improving for the NBA season. It is unclear if the Knicks have communicated those same wishes to Porzingis for this offseason.
Porzingis said at the news conference on Monday that he did not meet in person with the Knicks to discuss his frustration with the club or his other reasons for skipping exit meetings prior to leaving for Latvia.
“To be honest — I don’t want to comment on anything that happened at the season’s end. Personally I did not have any contact with anybody from the club [since the season ended], so … better that [Porzingis' older brother] Janis comment on this,” Porzingis said, according to the translated version of his remarks published by the New York Post.
Janis Porzingis said that Porzingis’ decision to play on the national team was his alone.
“It’s always a player’s decision, it’s Kristaps’ decision,” Janis Porzingis said. “Obviously it’s harder during the first couple years in the league, but after that you decide things on your own. And Kristaps is in a position to do that.”
It is unclear if the Knicks will have any contact with Porzingis while he is in Latvia.
Last summer, Knicks director of performance Mubarak Malik went to Porzingis’ hometown of Liepaja, Latvia, in the offseason to provide a summer training program for the big man. Assistant coach Josh Longstaff then spent time with Porzingis in Liepaja in June to work on different facets of his game. Janis Porzingis said that Longstaff might work with Porzingis again in Latvia.
“Maybe Kristaps’ personal coach [Longstaff] will visit KP’s summer camp [in mid-June] in Liepaja as he did last year, but nothing more,” Janis Porzingis said.
The events of the past few weeks have left Porzingis’ future with the team less then certain.
The Knicks can extend Porzingis a qualifying offer after the 2018-19 season, making him a restricted free agent. This would allow New York to match any offers Porzingis receives from other teams. If Porzingis doesn’t sign another team’s offer sheet that summer or chooses not to sign an extension with the Knicks, he would likely accept New York’s qualifying offer for the 2019-20 season and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020.
Porzingis was asked on Monday if he sees himself with the Knicks after his rookie contract expires.
“To be honest, I don’t think about that right now, I just try to do my best. I believe everything will resolve itself,” he said, according to the translated version of his remarks published by the New York Post.
Janis Porzingis added, “Actually there is no reason for this question. Kristaps is drafted there; he wants to play his whole career in New York.”