New Knicks head coach David Fizdale said he wanted to have a strong sense of communication with center Kristaps Porzingis, and visiting Porzingis' home in native Latvia has been a big step.
Fizdale has spent the past few days in Latvia with his wife and gotten to know Porzingis face-to-face as the All-Star center looks to return from a torn ACL.
"That's what's been great about this trip," Fizdale told a Latvian TV station, according to ESPN's Ian Begley. "You can dive right into it and really get to feel the culture and see his basketball world. See how people treat him in the city."
Fizdale is the fourth head coach under whom Porzingis has played since he was the No. 4 pick in the 2015 draft. Porzingis played under Derek Fisher, who was fired midway through the 2015-16 season, 28 games under Kurt Rambis and the past two seasons under Jeff Hornacek.
But Fizdale, the former Memphis Grizzlies head coach who was fired during the 2017-18 season, has been working to build a strong rapport with Porzingis.
Knicks koçu David Fizdale, Kristaps Porzingis'in iyileşme süreci ve antrenmanlarını takip etmek üzere Letonya'da. pic.twitter.com/i0xfHugJFO- Do Deka (@dodekabasket) July 25, 2018
"We've talked about his rehab," Fizdale said. We've talked about how we want to play, our style of play. Talked a lot about the culture that we're building. We wanna make sure that he comes back strong and healthy (from his ACL surgery) and we don't want to rush it. We've had some really good conversations. We talked about the kids we drafted. I've tried to make sure that he's -- we've been in communication on every decision that we've made."
Neither Hornacek nor former team president Phil Jackson met with Porzingis in Latvia during their tenures in New York, however flying to Latvia was one of the biggest priorities for Fizdale once he became Knicks head coach.
"This trip is more about getting to know him intimately," Fizdale said. "Know his family, know where he's from, kinda get to see what made him 'Kristaps.'"
The 22-year-old Porzingis averaged 22.7 points and 6.6 rebounds in 48 games with the Knicks before he tore his ACL in mid-February. He's been rehabbing overseas, however the Knicks do not have a timetable for his return.
Fizdale said in the spring he believes the 7-foot-3 Porzingis represents the future of the NBA and "fits all the qualities of a megastar and a guy who can really propel a franchise forward to high places."
Fizdale also said he doesn't want to limit Porzingis' versatility on the court, saying that while Porzingis may traditionally play the 4 or 5, "he might even be able to play position-less."
"I don't want to put any kind of ceiling on him or any of these other guys," Fizdale said in May. "We haven't worked together, so I want to give them a clean slate and build them up to be the best players they can be and put a lot of confidence in them."