04 - 09
July 2016
to read

Latvia will remain upbeat despite absence of Porzingis

RIGA (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) - Kristaps Porzingis will not play for Latvia this summer at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Belgrade after deciding to use the time to prepare for his second season in the NBA with the New York Knicks.

He made the announcement in his homeland this week. Porzingis has since made it very clear his feelings about being a Latvian.

The absence of the 20-year-old is a disappointment for Latvia's program and fans, yet it does not mean there will be a shortage of enthusiasm in the national team camp.

Looking to reach the Olympics for the first time since 1936, Latvia are likely to rely on the core of the team that put it into position to compete at the OQT in the first place. Porzingis was but one of the 25 players named by the federation in the preliminary squad several weeks ago.

Coach Ainars Bagatskis already knew that Porzingis was a big uncertainty. At the time of the preliminary squad announcement, the veteran coach said: "Of course I would be very interested to work with him and Porzingis's participation significantly change the whole team."

 Latvia coach Ainars Bagatskis

But Bagatskis also stressed that Latvia would still have much to be excited about were the country's NBA sensation to rule himself out.

"Last year not only without him but several other very good players, we went to the European Championship Quarter-Finals," Bagatskis said.

"This year's squad can also have Davis Bertans, Ojars Silins and Rolands Smits. I followed their routine, know what they are doing in their teams ... We can become much more varied in attack and stronger on defense."

There are many who will not be surprised that Porzingis has chosen to skip international basketball this summer. At no time did he ever indicate he would play with Latvia in 2016, even though they have a chance to reach the Olympics.

He is instead focused on his long-term development. Porzingis, after some time in Latvia, will return to the U.S. to train.

The player has reassured his countrymen that he wants to represent Latvia in international basketball. It's just not going to happen this year.

"After discussing the matter with everybody, I have decided not to play with the national team this year," Porzingis said.

I will definitely help the national team in the future. - Porzingis