New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis needs to be patient with the front office if he’s going to realize his dreams of contending.
Much like school letting out for the summer, the conclusion of the 2017-2018 NBA season has brought an end to a long journey for players and coaches looking forward to a break from the grind.
Yet everyone that didn’t make the playoffs, like those on the New York Knicks, will get to work early on their summer goals and objectives, much like student’s book report list.
Kristaps Porzingis’ “to-do” list is short, and health is most certainly at the top as he works his way back from a torn ACL. However, some soul-searching will be required as well.
Porzingis has always been vocal about wanting to be in the playoffs. Like any competitor, this is to be expected.
Back in January, he explained to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News his desire for the Knicks to be buyers at the trade deadline,
“I think they know I want to be in the playoffs and that’s the only thing on my mind,” said Porzingis, who is eligible for a $150 million contract extension this summer. “I’m not going to go in there and be like, ‘No, we’re tanking.’ Then there’s no reason to play. That’s the only thing I’m focused on. What I need to do on the court to play better, make my team win.”
This was not the first time Porzingis made public comments about the playoffs. Prior to the 2016-17 season, Phil Jackson decided to speed up the rebuilding process by trading for Derrick Rose and signing both Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee.
As a result, Porzingis started to visualize and vocalize his postseason dreams. He had this to say to ESPN’s Ian Begley back in 2016.
“Obviously, the No. 1 goal is the playoffs this year,” he said Saturday at a camp he hosted for children in Westchester, New York. “That’s where my head is at. I can’t be thinking nothing past that. Right now it’s the playoffs.”
Ultimately, for Jackson, this was a failed experiment. The playing styles of Carmelo Anthony, Rose, and Porzingis never really meshed. Jackson, in theory, wanted Porzingis to get playoff experience, as he thought this would be key to his development as a professional.
Yet fast forward to 2018, Rose is gone, Jeff Hornacek has just been fired, and Noah is currently in exile from the team.
Porzingis is a smart player and he is entering a summer where he is eligible for a max extension. His agent and brother, Janis Porzingis, is also acutely aware of their position, and he made this quite clear in an interview, last summer, with a Latvian news outlet.
Ian Begley of ESPN, wrote an article quoting the translation via Eurohoops.net,
“The most important question here is this: What do you really want to achieve in your career?” Janis Porzingis said in an interview in Latvian with Sportacentrs, according to a translation by Eurohoops.net. “Because money — if Kristaps performs at least on his normal level — is gonna come. We are more focused on some other values and not just to quickly sign a new contract so we can collect the money. That’s definitely not our goal, so we won’t be feverishly counting minutes or counting points. You can’t escape the reality, and the Knicks must also see that.
If you read between the lines, it seems that Porzingis and his team were concerned about the direction of the franchise and wanted to see some progress before agreeing to an extension.
Now Porzingis’ injury may take away some of that leverage, yet as a rising star in this league, one wonders how many years he will be patient with a franchise that has already missed the playoffs in each of his first three seasons.
But if Porzingis is smart, he will wait, he will be patient. The fact is that the Knicks need to embrace a full rebuild, not one that is hijacked by having older players on the team that want to win now.
The Knicks are in talent acquisition mode, and Porzingis needs to acknowledge and understand that this is how contenders are built.
At the very least, if you listen to his most recent comments, it seems he may have that understanding.
“I’m sure the front office, they will make the right decisions and to build something that that can go a long way,’’ Porzingis told Marc Berman on the New York Post. “I think they will make the right decisions, so we have to trust them.’’
Look around the NBA and you see that an organization like the Oklahoma City Thunder, at one point, drafted two future MVP’s in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, not to mention the front-runner for this year’s award, James Harden.
The Philadelphia 76ers drafted Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric (draft-night trade with the Orlando Magic), and Markelle Fultz. “Trust the Process” has now borne fruit, and the 76ers will be playing the Miami Heat in the first round of this year’s playoffs.
Even the gold standard, the Golden State Warriors, despite signing Durant as a free-agent, drafted Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Two championships in three seasons certainly has a nice ring to it.
The point? Porzingis must see that the Knicks need at least two-to-three years, draft picks, a coach, and more talent via the G league or free agency to become relevant in the Eastern Conference.
There is no question that Porzingis sees himself as a star in this league and ready to take the next step in his growth. His management team is aware of his place in the league and wants him to be part of a contender.
But given the time, and patience, Porzingis can realize his potential as the savior of a franchise in one of the biggest cities in the world.