David Fizdale has nothing but love for the Knicks' former Latvian baller.
A day removed from the blockbuster trade that sent the face of New York's franchise, Kristaps Porzingis, to the Dallas Mavericks -- along with Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke -- the Knicks head coach began his press conference with appreciation for his athletes.
"I just want to start off by thanking the guys that are going to Dallas," Fizdale said. "They were unbelievable professionals for me. It's never easy for a coach in these moments because you get so attached to guys. You go through a season where you struggle. I miss those guys and I really appreciate their approach to helping us."
Fizdale confirmed what New York media and fans hesitated to accept: Porzingis no longer wanted to play in New York and craved, instead, a fresh start.
In his first year as Knicks head coach, Fizdale never received the opportunity to coach Porzingis due to the 23-year-old All-Star rehabbing his ACL injury. Fizdale said he felt some disengagement from Porzingis in the past 10 days. Fizdale said he could not put a thumb on when Porzingis began to withdraw from the team's goals, but he could feel it.
"We're trying to build something from the ground up. It doesn't mean that this is for everybody," Fizdale said. "You're trying to build something that everybody feels valued and included and a part of. That's the kind of environment we're trying to create. We want people to be here and build this with us, and unfortunately that wasn't the case."
Porzingis and his brother, Janis, met with team management on Thursday and "expressed concern" with losing, the overall direction of the franchise, and more, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, who said Porzingis also expressed doubt that the Knicks were developing a culture that would "enable sustainable organizational success."
Fizdale said because Porzingis was not on board with the team's future plans, it left the Knicks no choice but to trade him.
The head coach put his best foot forward when Fizdale first signed a four-year contract with the Knicks. Fizdale and his wife took a trip to Porzingis' hometown in Latvia to get to know his family over the summer last year. Fizdale said on Friday that he had a great conversation with Porzingis after the 7-foot-3 athlete was traded on Thursday night. They laughed about Fizdale never actually getting a chance to coach him.
In exchange for Porzingis, the Knicks received Dennis Smith Jr., two future first-round picks, and the expiring contracts of DeAndre Jordan and Wes Matthews. Fizdale opined his optimism for Smith Jr., saying the 21-year-old point guard shows great promise for the future of the franchise.