As the Knicks head coach, David Fizdale has been a blessing. He’s gotten creative with his lineups; he’s giving the youth plenty of burn; and he’s not trying to win now with the likes of Lance Thomas and Enes Kanter. He’s taking the long view. So long is his view that Fizdale is not even willing to let franchise cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis obstruct it. Get that enormous Latvian of his line of sight, so he can get a good look at 2021 Mitchell Robinson.
On Thursday, Fizdale gave a quote about Porzingis’s recovery from ACL surgery, and though it seemed to stem from simple misunderstanding, it—unsurprisingly!—turned out to be an inflammatory one. Fizdale said Porzingis’s recovery was at the same level as training camp: shooting and jogging lightly, not yet sprinting. The Knicks media, of course, reported an injury update on a star player that came directly from a head coach. Later that day, Porzingis attempted to disprove that with photos of himself running on a track, along with one image of Khabib Nurmagomedov:
Star and coach now seem to be in sync, per ESPN’s Ian Begley. Fizdale said a frustrated Porzingis just wanted to correct the perception that he wasn’t working hard on his recovery.
“But I was happy as hell to see that stride, I know that,” Fizdale said. “I might go out with him next time and do some power walking because that got me out of the bed when I saw that.”
“I’m the only doofus that didn’t know he had went out to the track,” the coach said. “....My big thing is, I’m just happy when I get him back. I’m not as much on the day-to-day updates. I’m not into that. When I get him back, I’m going to be happy as heck. But otherwise, I’m really locked into (the Knicks currently available to play).”
That “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy toward Porzingis seems to sum up Fizdale’s attitude towards running the team right now. Here’s some additional context from yesterday’s New York Post story:
“I’m not planning on … I’m looking at these guys right now,” Fizdale said after Thursday’s practice. “I’m not even planning on KP at all. I can see instantly how he fits, but I’m just trying to keep my mind focused on them. Because that would just be a huge distraction for me mentally, hoping and wishing for KP, that 25, 28 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. I’ve got to lock in on these young bucks, keep them up to par.”
When asked specifically if he feels Porzingis won’t return in the 2018-19 season, Fizdale said he needs to think that way for his own peace of mind but doesn’t have knowledge one way or another.
“Just mentally for me,” Fizdale said. “That’s somewhere else. I don’t want to get distracted personally as the coach, worried about if and when he’s coming back. I’d rather be focused on the day-to-day task with these guys, and when he gets back, that’ll just be a gift for me. You can get distracted as a coach, caught up in that world of when and hopefully soon and you lose focus on what you’re doing. And these guys deserve my undivided attention.”
Fizdale has no room in his head for a chaise lounge enough to contain a 7-foot-3 rim protector, and that makes sense. Who among us has not had to banish the distracting vision of a (holy shit) 28-10-5 Porzingis from their mind, regularly, just to get through the day’s tasks? Coach is not alone on that front: I still put on this video last night and sunk into its warm embrace before eight hours of perfect sleep.