Knicks star F Kristaps Porzingis is frustrated.
The Latvian big man has been forced to watch along this entire preseason as his teammates get ready for the 2018-19 campaign. Porzingis is still rehabbing after his ACL surgery eight months ago, and though his progress hasn't hit a setback, he is growing tired of the same slow pace.
"He's feeling better every day, but it's still that frustrating slow drip for him," Fizdale told the Daily News' Stefan Bondy.
Neither Fizdale nor Porzingis have said whether or not the All-Star will sit out the entire season, but in the meantime, Fizdale is making sure Porzingis stays occupied and close to the team. He may not be able to do it on the floor, but the Knicks' new head coach is coaching Porzingis on leadership.
Leadership is what normally comes with being a team's franchise player, and at 23, Porzingis is considered a veteran on this young squad. Fizdale is making sure that Porzingis realizes he can still make an impact from the sideline.
"My focus with him mainly is leadership, being present, helping the young big guys," Fizdale said. "Talking to the young guards about what they should be looking for. Taking guys to eat, spending time with them and things like that. He's been doing that, it's been great. And he heals when he heals."
Every leader has their own specific way of encouraging their teammates. Some are quiet and would rather show it on the court or field, while others are vocal and engage with positive reinforcement or contrustive criticism.
Porzingis' leadership will fall somewhere along that spectrum, but Fizdale won't be pushing a certain vision onto him. He knows he must find that quality himself.
"I just think that's something that has to come naturally for him. I just think that's something that has to come from you," Fizdale said. "What I tried to do now just learning from different experiences and stuff like that is don't force feed that."
So far, Fizdale likes what he sees.
"(Porzingis), for whatever reason, has felt comfortable and safe leading this group from where he's at right now," he said. "I've been very happy with his engagement and hopefully it just keeps growing."