We need to start with this bit of context: Kristaps Porzingis and his brother Janis Porzingis are very close. The Janis, the elder brother who played some pro ball in Europe, essentially serves as Kristaps’ confidant and advisor. He’s not Kristaps’ agent, but in terms of influence he is bigger than that.
Which makes what the elder Porzingis told Sporta Avize (as translated by Europhoops.net) very interesting (hat tip Ball Don’t Lie). It started with a discussion or Porzingis’ well-documented skipping of his exit interview with Phil Jackson, and evolved into his plans for his next contract (he has this season and next on his rookie deal, but this summer New York can offer a max extension to him starting in the 2019-20 season).
“That wasn’t an emotional decision,” said the elder Porzingis (about skipping the exit meeting). “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….
“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.”
First off, that comes off a “max or else” warning shot (whether he intended it that way or not). Which is fair, if the Knicks don’t max him out they are foolish and risk a Kevin Love situation (sowing the seeds of discontent that become an issue when the next contract comes up). There can be questions about Porzingis’ durability and if can he be a true No. 1, but he’s so good you pay to find out where that ceiling is. He will put in the work to reach it.
Janis also seems to suggest the goal of skipping the meeting was to push Phil Jackson out the door. If so, well played. It worked. Jackson is on his ranch in Montana and the franchise is being run by Steve Mills and Scott Perry. Those two see Porzingis as the future, not a guy to trade away out of frustration (ala Jackson’s attempts to test the market). Janis also likes the direction the franchise seems to be going, for now.
Also in the interview, Janis says that if Carmelo Anthony and his group had been stronger, more forceful leaders off the court and with management KP would not have been forced to skip his exit meeting. Either way, Porzingis got his wish and is the core of the franchise. The question now is what does he do with it?