Kristaps Porzingis vanquished Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony in New York, and now the Knicks better treat him right if they don’t want him to leave them in his wake, too, or at least that’s what we can gather from an interview his brother and agent Janis Porzingis conducted with a Latvian magazine.
In his discussion with Sporta Avize, as translated by Europhoops.net, Janis unloaded about his younger brother’s decision to skip his exit interview at the end of last season, why Anthony was made out to be a martyr on his way out of New York, and an impending contract extension decision.
First, the exit interview, which Kristaps skipped in April, causing a rift with Phil Jackson that led to a flurry of incoming trade calls and the then-Knicks team president openly admitting one of the game’s most promising young talents is on the trade market. This was all part of the Porzingis plan, per Janis:
“That wasn’t an emotional decision,” said the elder Porzingis. “It wasn’t a spontaneous action. We had been thinking about it for a long time and it was considered an honest, well-thought decision we came up with together. It was a logical next step for us, without which we would’ve been in one situation, but now after we did — we are in another.”
In the immediate aftermath of the skipped exit interview, the Porzingises (Porzingi?) were open about their frustration with an organization that has swallowed up many a decent player, lamenting the “top to bottom confusion” and remaining non-committal on Jackson while expressing a love for New York.
But this latest explanation from Janis sure makes it sound like it was an orchestrated attempt to oust Jackson. And if it was, more power to them, because it seemed to work, as Jackson was fired in June.
From my perspective, at least, Porzingis was lauded for sticking it to the Knicks after a season full of so much dysfunction it’s not worth listing again, but doesn’t seem to be the way Janis sees it:
“It’s interesting how many people who are even somehow involved in all of this have criticized it afterward as something so unprofessional,” added big brother. “Just look at Melo, how he is handling things. … And I’m thinking, ‘Wait a minute. In reality, if he for once decided to fight for something, we wouldn’t be in this situation and Kristaps wouldn’t be forced to take all the damage on himself.’ It wasn’t done for some personal interest or ambitions or dislike for someone, it was for the sake of overall peace. It should have been a task for the team’s leaders, but Melo and people around him never tried to change anything.”
Yikes. Tell us how you really feel, Janis. Oh, he did. He definitely did:
“First, it’s a long time before signing a new deal. Second, there are so many things that can happen in the season, so it’s a waste of time thinking about it now. He needs to be healthy and play his game. And even that is conditional since we know that (Joel) Embiid was recently awarded a maximum contract for 30 games.
“The most important question here is this: What do you really want to achieve in your career? 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. From their point of view, Kristaps is the focal point at the moment so you cannot upset him much or otherwise, at the end of the season, he will say, ‘It’s not so cool here.’ The second question is: Who is the New York audience coming to watch now? To a large extent, it’s Kristaps. So the organization has to take that into account.”
OK, then. This would worry me, if I’m the Knicks. Kristaps alluded to all of this in a recent conversation with the New York Daily News, suggesting money wasn’t the primary motivator in his career and he would like to see improvement from the Knicks before signing an extension. But the comments from Janis sound more like an ultimatum, which could just be a matter of nuance getting lost in translation.
At the same time, I’m not sure why this is all so worrisome for Janis. I find it hard to believe, even for the Knicks, that they won’t offer him a max extension next fall, considering he’s everything New Yorkers could have hoped he would be this season. That’s what the elder Porzingis is getting at with “the organization has to take that into account,” right? Or is he suggesting the Knicks better get their act together in terms of roster-building by the start of next season? Because if that’s the ultimatum, then the Knicks have a long way to go to satisfy any rational view of a contender.
The Embiid reference is an interesting one, because injury risk has always been the biggest incentive for players on rookie contracts to seek longterm security. If Porzingis is convinced he’ll eventually earn max money regardless, as Embiid did, and he’s truly not worried about landing a mega-deal in the short-term, then maybe he is a serious flight risk if the Knicks don’t meet his brother’s demands.
Like Janis said, though, that’s a long way away. Kristaps is under contract for this season and next, and the Knicks can match any contract offer he receives in restricted free agency in 2019. Porzingis could choose to sign his $7.5 million offer sheet and play out the last year of his contract in New York in order to become an unrestricted free agent, but even that wouldn’t free him from New York until 2020.
So, there’s plenty of time to mend a fence that was broken by an exit interview and apparently still isn’t fixed, but the Knicks better start soon, because Porzingis seems to think that divide is far off, too.
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