After pissing off Kristaps Porzingis, Knicks coach David Fizdale reaches out

The Knicks under Phil Jackson could’ve written the book on ‘How Not To Handle Star Players.’

They threw kerosene on controversies through avoidance, until the whole thing burned down and everybody left with a terrible Won-Loss record while counting James Dolan’s money.

Changing that environment is part of the reason they hired David Fizdale, who, despite his feud with Marc Gasol in Memphis, is about as savvy and affable as any coach in the NBA. On Friday, Fizdale passed his first mini controversy with flying colors, taking the proactive approach with an annoyed Kristaps Porzingis.

“I talked to him this morning, we had a great talk about it,” Fizdale said.

Kristaps Porzingis wasn't pleased to hear his new head coach talking about his rehab efforts.
Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t pleased to hear his new head coach talking about his rehab efforts. (Mary Altaffer / AP)

Here’s the backstory: Porzingis is nine months into ACL surgery rehab with no return date and no contract beyond this season. I’d say the situation is fluid but that’s an insult to flowing water. On Thursday, Fizdale was asked about Porzingis’ recovery and stated that there hasn’t been much, if any, progress since the start of training camp.

“Sprinting, he’s not there yet,” the coach said.

Only Porzingis had been sprinting. And, according to Fizdale, the Latvian was frustrated by the perception that he wasn’t working hard. So after the coach’s comments were published, Porzingis posted photos of himself sprinting on an outdoor track. There was another photo with the caption, “This is number one bulls–t.”

Millennials always vent on Instagram.

“I didn’t realize he had went out to the track,” Fizdale said. “But I was happy as hell to see that stride, I know that. I might go out with him next time and do some power walking because that got me out of the bed when I saw that.

“But in here (in the training facility), he hadn’t done any of that stuff. And I’m locked into the gym so I didn’t realize that he had taken the next step to go to the track, and start performing and getting his stride in order and getting that leg feeling good about running his normal stride.”

David Fizdale calls himself a 'doofus' for sharing details about Kristaps Porzingis' recovery without knowing the full story.
David Fizdale calls himself a ‘doofus’ for sharing details about Kristaps Porzingis’ recovery without knowing the full story. (Lynne Sladky / AP)

Fizdale said he talked to Porzingis prior to Friday’s practice and “we’re in a good place.” Porzingis did not speak to the media.

“He’s working his tail off. I think how he took it was that people thought he wasn’t busting his hump, he took it personally, it got to him that people would think that,” Fizdale said. “And he’s really, this guy has been a terror on his workouts. I think that’s what it was in response to. So I think maybe when he heard me say, ‘Hey, we’re taking it slow’ and all of that stuff, that’s what we’re doing but at the same time he don’t want people thinking that he’s not busting his hump, because he’s killing it.”

As the team spokesman, Fizdale acknowledged he has to be better about gathering medical information, calling himself a “doofus” for not knowing Porzingis was sprinting outside of the practice facility. But then he called to squash the issue.

The smart approach.

“Kill it, yeah. It’s never nothing done in ill-intention, I don’t feel like,” Fizdale said. “With this group of people that we got here right now, our agendas are on point. Everybody’s coming from a good place. So why let things linger? That’s how stuff ends up festering into a real problem. It’s all usually some miscommunication or a misunderstanding and something you could’ve hashed out as an adult right there. So I stress that to all of these guys, handle stuff face to face. Eye to eye communication. Get it over with.”