When new Knicks head coach David Fizdale flies to Europe to visit with franchise player Kristaps Porzingis, he hopes he can get him to buy into a new team culture.
"I want him to feel something different," Fizdale said Thursday at the NBA Draft Combine, according to Newsday's Al Iannazzone. "I want him to feel something that when he comes back here it's going to be special for him. He's walking back into a culture and environment that's set up for winning."
Fizdale, the fourth head coach Porzingis will play for since being drafted fourth overall by the Knicks in 2015, said flying to Latvia is among his first priorities so he can establish a bond with the 22-year-old center.
He said he could fly to Europe "maybe multiple times" to check in with Porzingis, who is recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last winter. Porzingis has been rehabbing both in his home country of Latvia and in Spain with Real Madrid.
Former team president Phil Jackson and former head coach Jeff Hornacek did not meet with Porzingis in Latvia during their tenures with the Knicks, according to the New York Daily News' Frank Isola, but Fizdale hopes he can help take Porzingis to the next level with a meeting.
"That's my biggest goal this summer is to really bond with him and connect with him and get insight from him: his experiences, what he liked, what he didn't like, what he'd like to see," Fizdale said. "What's his goals? Does he see himself as a guy who can be MVP one day? Defensive Player of the Year? I want to hear all that stuff and share with him my vision on how to get him there."
The 7-foot-3, 240-pound Porzingis has averaged 17.8 points and 7.1 rebounds in his three years, however he has played under three coaches during that time. As a rookie, he played under Derek Fisher. When Fisher got fired, the Knicks replaced him with Kurt Rambis. Hornacek was the team's coach for the past two years, going 60-104.
Fizdale, 43, went 43-39 in his first season as the head coach of the Grizzlies in 2016-17 and led Memphis to the postseason, but a 7-12 record in 2017-18 and a falling out with star center Marc Gasol led to his termination.
He hopes he can learn from the past and build a strong rapport with Porzingis from the start.
"I'm a fresh start for him," Fizdale said on MSG Network last week, according to ESPN's Ian Begley. "I really feel like I'm going to make a great connection with him and his family. And we're going to build something special around him that he feels great about."