Kristaps Porzingis has been fighting through his first two games of the season.
He doesn’t have a rhythm yet, which is understandable after not playing in a game for five months and coming off knee surgery.
But that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow for the 7-3 center-forward.
Porzingis played 29 minutes on Friday in the 112-109 loss at Milwaukee and while he had 15 points and 10 rebounds, he admitted he’s still trying to do too much too fast.
That showed when he was 3-for-15 from the field through three quarters. To his credit, he made 3-of-4 shots in the fourth quarter. The miss was a 3-pointer with 10 seconds to play that Porzingis said he rushed into and also which could have put the Mavericks ahead by a point.
But it must be mentioned that Trey Burke also missed a good look at a 3-pointer before Willie Cauley-Stein’s offensive rebound set up Porzingis. And on the possession before, Luka Dončić missed a driving shot.
But Porzingis could only think about what might have been.
“There’s got to be a balance,” he said. “You want to be aggressive, but you want to be aggressive in positions you’re comfortable in. Tough loss today. We’re playing decent basketball as a team, but there are things I could have done a lot better and that could have changed a lot in this game. This one, I want to take a lot of responsibility for this one.”
The good news is that Porzingis said he feels great physically. But it’s the timing of the game and the mental side, that is slower to come.
“Physically, I feel fine,” he said. “I was actually surprised I played that many minutes. It would have been better if I knew I was going to play that many minutes. I would have been more calm out there.
“I feel like I’m still trying to find that rhythm and make the right decisions. I feel a bit disappointed in my performance. I need to play better.”
Coach Rick Carlisle said that’s something that will come with time.
“I just think it’s a situation where, the more he plays, the more we can reconcile that and he can reconcile that,” Carlisle said. “If you were out for five months and you were just getting a chance to get back to the team, you’d be aggressive too.
“You’d want to get the ball in your hands. Put yourself in his shoes. If he was not aggressive, I’d be a lot more concerned.”
Rookies weigh in: With five players still sidelined because of COVID-19 safety protocols, it’s meant perhaps-unexpected opportunities for rookies Josh Green and Tyrell Terry.
Green got a start against Orlando and has played at least 15 minutes in three consecutive games.
“The challenge is the short period of time,” Carlisle said of the quick turnaround rookies had from the draft in November to the first game a month later. “He (Green) is a mature kid. He’s got poise. He’s got skill.
“If anything, at times, it’s a matter of getting him to slow down and this happens with every young player. The game moves quickly and there’s a lot going on as they are trying to read situations. He wants to obviously wants to do well for his team he wants to get out there and get his career going so this is a really great opportunity for him and in the Charlotte game, he really settled in, which was great to see.”
He wasn’t bad against the Bucks, either.
Neither was Terry, who did not play in five of the first 10 games and had very brief appearances in the other five. But in five first-half minutes against the Bucks, the rookie out of Stanford had a terrific layup with Giannis Antetokounmpo bearing down on him to go with a pair of assists.
It was Terry that was on the floor when the Mavericks snapped out of a funk they had been in to start the game.
“The second quarter, that group that came in with Tyrell Terry, Josh Green, James Johnson – those guys played extremely hard and got the momentum of the game back in our favor,” Carlisle said. “Tyrell Terry came in and I think he was a plus in his six or eight minutes.
“That’s why you have 17 guys. Try to get them all ready, believe in them all, knowing that in an NBA season, there’s going to be situations like this.”