The Latvian national basketball team got some terrible news on Monday when New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis announced he’s not going to participate in the Olympic qualifying tournament this summer.
As Ian Begley of ESPN.com reports, Porzingis announced the tough decision in Latvia, saying his heart wanted to make the trip, but his head told his otherwise.
“My heart is saying you should go and play for your country, you should represent your country,” Porzingis said last month. “At the same time, with my head, I’m understanding this is a big offseason for me and I really want to work individually.”
Losing Porzingis is crushing news for Latvia. The 20-year-old had an incredible, star-making year in New York during his rookie season, averaging 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. Porzingis would have been by far the national team’s best player, and losing him severely impacts their qualifying chances – not that it was likely. Latvia has only appeared in one Olympics, way back in 1936 in Berlin.
Latvia has been placed in a group at the FIBA qualifying tournament in Belgrade this July with Japan and the Czech Republic. Just one of the six teams participating in the Belgrade tournament will advance to the Summer Olympics in Rio.
The Knicks should be thrilled with the news, as ESPN reports Porzingis will now stay stateside to work with the team’s coaching and training staff. Porzingis reportedly wants to gain 12 pounds, become more athletic. and work on his post game.
Choosing to stay in the United States must have been a tough decision for Porzingis, but it’s probably the right one for his long-term NBA career.