May 2, 2016, 9:24 am
The New York Knicks were abundantly clear about their desires for Kristaps Porzingis’s summer. Today their wish was granted as Porzingis announced that he will not play for Latvia’s national team and instead focus on developing under the watchful eye of the Knicks.
After a successful rookie season, Porzingis will likely work on strength and conditioning to help him deal with the rigors of a full NBA schedule. Bulking up his 7’3″ frame would help the team’s prized possession deal with stronger, more physical opponents in the post. Already a matchup problem for opponents, a Porzingis with added muscle would be a major source of headaches for defenses around the league. With his national obligations no longer on the table, Porzingis will also be free to learn any new systems the Knicks may install under a new coaching staff. A full summer stateside for KP was always the hope for New York, and now the onus is on them to put it to good use.
The move is obviously a huge blow to Latvia’s Olympic hopes. Even with their best player Latvia would be hard pressed to make the Olympics. As it stands, they’ll have to top Serbia, Puerto Rico, Angola, Japan and the Czech Republic to win their qualifying tournament. Latvia’s only basketball appearance at the Olympics came in 1936; the sport’s inaugural year in the Games.
Porzingis had previously stated how much of an honor it would be to play for his country, but with this move he’s placed his own long term well-being over Latvia’s chances of competing in Rio this summer. It’s obviously a very tough choice to make and Porzingis should be commended for showing his commitment to his organization and his own personal growth. Latvia will have to hope for his participation in the buildup to 2020.