Lowe: 'Don't Think' Kristaps Porzingis Was 'Psyched' to Play with Kevin Durant

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2019

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis stands on the court during a time out in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, in New York. The Nets won 107-105. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Former New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis reportedly wasn't thrilled about the idea of playing alongside Golden State Warriors small forward Kevin Durant, a potential free agent and possible Knicks offseason target. 

On Friday, ESPN's Zach Lowe (via The Knicks Wall) reported details on the Lowe Post podcast about Porzingis' trade to the Dallas Mavericks and how Durant's status may have played into the move.

"I don't think he was psyched about playing with Durant," Lowe said. "I don't know how directly that was verbalized to the Knicks, but I'm confident that it wasn't something that was like his Plan A. ... He wanted to be the face of the franchise."

After the Jan. 31 blockbuster trade, Knicks president Steve Mills explained Porzingis "hadn't fully bought in to the team's plans for the future," which played a key role in the front office's decision to send him to the Mavs, per Ian Begley of ESPN.com.

"We feel like we did the right thing," Mills said. "When you try to think about how you want to build your team for the long term, you don't want to commit a max [contract] to a player who clearly says to you he doesn't want to be here. That would be a disservice for our organization and disservice to our fans."

Porzingis was the Knicks' cornerstone after being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft. He averaged 17.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks across 186 appearances in three-plus seasons with the franchise, but the team couldn't build a winning roster around him.

The 23-year-old Latvian native suffered a torn ACL last February and will remain sidelined for the rest of the 2018-19 season following his move to Dallas.

Durant headlines a star-studded 2019 free-agent class that may also feature Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler and DeMarcus Cousins, among others.

While pairing Porzingis with any of those marquee names would have formed a strong foundation, the Knicks could now end up in the market trying to land two superstars as they look to end an extended that will include six straight playoff-less seasons when the current campaign ends.

Two high-end signings paired with a possible top-three draft pick would be the path toward a massive turnaround next season. Of course, it's easier said than done.

Meanwhile, Porzingis will focus on getting back to full strength before teaming up with rising star Luka Doncic as the Mavericks' new core next season.