Knicks head coach David Fizdale wakes up every morning with the same goal in mind.
"I want to take the Knicks to the championship," Fizdale told Latvian news outlet Sportacentrs.com. "This is my main and greatest goal -- to win the title for New York. Every morning is with this thought. Visiting Latvia and building of relationships with players so that they are more than simple coach-player relations, I believe that establishing such a link is a way to overcome the difficulties in the playoffs."
That is one lofty goal Fizdale set for himself given the Knicks haven't been to the Finals since their 1973 win. But he sees potential in his young crew to take him to the promise land.
And that young roster he expects to be led by Kristaps Porzingis, who he just met face-to-face for the first time in Latvia this past week. The conversations they had revolved around Porzingis' leadership role with the team.
Though there's the possibility he won't be on the court at all this season, Fizdale wants Porzingis to be the veteran leader he knows he can be. He will be working side-by-side with him to develop that quality.
"We talked about how Kristaps would take on a bigger role," Fizdale said. We will have a new team in which Kristaps will be quite a veteran. We talked about the ways in which I see him naturally becoming the leaders of the team. Of course, I told him how we see him lifting his game to the next level. I said, 'Let's do this together.' We went to the gym and the beach. Our get-together was great, I got a concrete and good impression of his home."
With Porzingis out of the mix, though, Fizdale knows everyone is writing the Knicks off this season. But winning isn't the vision GM Scott Perry and president Steve Mills have this season anyway. Developing the young talent and giving 100 percent at all times on the court was the mantra last season, and that hasn't changed heading into 2018.
If there is anything Fizdale wants to see from his squad this season without their best player, it's defense.
"Everyone expects us to take a few punches this year because we have a new team and Kristaps is injured," Fizdale said. "Perhaps we cannot always ensure we will score the ball, but we can definitely develop good defense. I want to play a lot of transition basketball, play fast, but the only way to do this is to have a good defense first."
In doing this, Fizdale envisions a team that is fully ready for Porzingis' return -- one that he can jump right into and start to bring winning basketball back to The Garden.
'Without Kristaps, it's a chance to prepare the other guys for the moment Kristaps returns," Fizdale said. "We want Kristaps to come back to a team that already knows how to move without the ball, how to spread the court, what is a good and bad shot. All the things that a new team needs to learn."
These are the steps Fizdale and the rest of the Knicks' organization believes will get that Larry O'Brien trophy in MSG once again.