David Fizdale on why it's too early to judge Knicks' trade of Kristaps Porzingis

Ian Begley

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

DALLAS - David Fizdale was asked on Thursday about the Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis trade. He said it's too early to fully judge the transaction.

"Well, we don't know what Dennis Smith is going to be. He's 21 years old. At the end of the day we've still got two first-round picks out of that," Fizdale said a day before the Knicks face Porzingis and the Mavs in Dallas. "Who knows who that's going to be? We won't know exactly what comes out of that for a year or two."

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The Knicks essentially received Smith Jr., cap space and two future first round picks from the Mavericks.

 

They spent the cap space on Julius Randle (three-year deal) and several veterans. The others were signed to short-term deals, so the Knicks could have significant cap space this summer and next.

So far, the only tangible return for the trade has been Smith Jr. The 21-year-old point guard has been away from the team recently while mourning the death of his stepmother. He returned to the Knicks on Thursday, but is not expected to play in Friday's game against Dallas.

Smith Jr. struggled with his shot in the first four games of the season after missing nearly two weeks in the preseason with a back ailment. Fizdale was asked if Smith Jr. still has a future in the league.

"Absolutely. The injury really knocked him for a loop. That early injury. He came into camp flying. He really was playing well," the coach said. "Once he got hurt, his conditioning got thrown off, his rhythm got thrown off and then we got thrown into live games. It's tough to get your footing when you're trying to win games. I think he'll be fine. I think we've just got to get him back into a rhythm and get him back into his system and he'll find his way."

If the Knicks can help Smith Jr. reach his potential and they add a star via their cap space or a trade, the Porzingis deal may be judged more evenly. At the moment, it doesn't look good for New York, which is 1-6 entering Friday's game against the Mavs.

They got rid of Courtney Lee's contract in the trade. Lee's deal is expiring after this season. They also got rid of Tim Hardaway Jr.'s deal. New York signed Hardaway to the deal in the summer of 2017. It expires after next season.

Fizdale spoke regularly last season about how excited he was to coach Porzingis. He said he was surprised with how things ended between the 24-year-old and the Knicks.

"I was. This is the NBA. Everyone's going to hunt for happiness and comfort," Fizdale said. "That was a decision he had to make. So here we are today."

Porzingis didn't want to get into too many details about his breakup with the Knicks. There was certainly a rift with management and a lack of confidence on Porzingis' side about the Knicks' ability to build a winning culture.

He was asked on Thursday if it was tough to deal with all of the losing the Knicks endured while he was here. The Knicks lost at least 50 games in each of Porzingis' four seasons here.

"The losing's always tough. Losing is always tough. Of course," said Porzigis. "We all want to be winning and stuff. What else can I say? I loved my time there. For real. I did love my time there and I loved the support there. That's all I've got to say."

Porzingis was accused of rape by woman in a complaint that is being investigated by the NYPD. She alleges the attack occurred in Feb. 2018 and reportedly reached out to the Knicks in October 2018 in an effort to have them mediate the situation. Porzingis has denied the allegations.

Why the blowouts?

The Knicks have been competitive in four of their seven losses. In the other three, they have been blown out, losing by more than 20 points. They've lost by 21 and 20, respectively, in their last two losses. Fizdale was asked on Thursday what he sees during those stretches when the Knicks are non-competitive.

"The two areas that we've really got to get hammered down is our defensive presence, physicality, just keeping bodies on people. And offensively, trusting each other," he said. "When we stop moving that ball is death for us. I thought first half the other night (against Detroit), that was one of our best offensive halves, where the ball just popped, it moved. We made quick decisions. I think it really helped Julius (Randle) to get going. Once we got to the second half, started off good, but then we hit that wall of holding it again. I've just got to work that habit out of this group."

Helping Smith Jr.

Fizdale and the Knicks welcomed Smith Jr. back after he was away mourning the death of his stepmother. He was apart from the team for nearly two weeks. Fizdale was asked what the club can do to help him deal with a difficult situation.

"The gym," he said, pointing to the court. "Basketball has always been all of our saviors. Anything that's ever happened to me in my life, the only thing that ever made me feel better was being back in the gym. I know for him, that's going to be the best medicine is being with his teammates, being with his coaches and smelling the gym again."

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