ORLANDO — The new head coach Jeff Hornaeck and new point guard Derrick Rose have Kristaps Porzingis excited and so does the plan for the Knicks to run and play at a faster tempo in 2016-17.
“I think so, yeah,” said the 7-foot-3 power forward who stopped by the Orlando Summer League on Saturday, where he won’t play with the Knicks team but will get in some individual workouts. “I think we played a little too static. Just ‘bah, bah, bah, this, this, this.’ That’s why it’s great that we got a guy like D-Rose, who can really push the ball. We gotta keep up with him. We gotta run the floor. It’s gonna be a lot of easy buckets for me if I run the fast break and he can throw an oop to me. So I’m really excited about that idea of playing quicker and faster.”
Porzingis has just returned from a trip home to his native Latvia, where he hadn’t been in nearly a year since the Knicks made him the No. 4 pick in the 2015 draft. Despite the success he had playing in the media spotlight of New York, averaging 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and finishing second behind Karl-Anthony Towns in Rookie of the Year voting, the homecoming fanfare was less than expected.
“Actually it was really relaxing,” Porzingis said. “I got back home and went through the airport like a regular person. Nobody really bothered me. Then as I was doing more and more community stuff and people started realizing I was available more and more start coming up to me.”
The main difference was a billboard that was put up just outside Liepaja.
“I think it went up during the season,” he said. “When you enter my hometown they put up a billboard with my ugly face on it so everybody can see that I’m from there.”
Porzingis is looking to expand his game in his second NBA season.
“I think I got to be able to play in the post when I’ve got a smaller guy on me and play outside when a bigger, slower guy is on me. I just gotta keep improving my game, from every aspect.
“I’m gonna be my type of player. I’m going to be attacking from outside, shooting from outside. I gotta keep that, but as well add new moves from the post. Just being stronger in the post, getting position deeper when I’ve got a smaller guy on me. Use my advantage. I’ll try to work on one thing and then slowly put it all together.”
There seems to be a spring back in Porzingis’ step and a smile on his face that he returned following a dismal 32-50 season by the Knicks that took an obvious emotional toll by the time it was over. He was laughing, joking, practically bubbling.
“I’m happy to be back in America. And it’s just exciting what’s going on,” Porzingis said.
“I got the energy back. I’m back the States and I’ve been working and just looking forward to the season. During the season you have, how you say, mood swings. You are sad. Right now, I’m just full of energy. I’m looking forward to the season, even though there are still three or four months till beginning of the season.
“I gotta keep that same energy, keep working and then once the season is here enjoy it more when I show something new on the court.”
Though Hornacek has been singing his praises to the New York media, the new coach and Porzingis had not yet met by Saturday afternoon.
“Just texting,” Porzingis said. “But I’m looking forward to meeting and getting to know our new coach. Hopefully we have a dinner and getting to know his philosophy and the way he thinks on the basketball court. That’s important.”