We are living in the what’s-next generation.

Finish lunch, and we start wondering what’s for dinner.

Pay the rent, we see if there’s enough left for a night on the town.

Make the playoffs, finish the season, analyze what’s next for the Mavericks.

Coach Rick Carlisle wasted no time hitting on a key point for the future: “We’ve got to get our roster completely healthy.”

Not sure if that ever happens in the NBA. But you get the point.

There are lots of things that must be addressed for the Mavericks to make the difficult jump from respectable playoff team to championship contender. The roster must be augmented. And their returning players must make tangible improvements.

But more than anything? What Carlisle and all Mavericks’ fans need is for Kristaps Porzingis to find a way to keep his wheels spinning.

The 7-3 Porzingis has had some bum luck with his knees. The torn left ACL cost him more than the entire 2018-19 season. It was 21 months from injury to return.

And while it took some time, Porzingis did get back to the all-star level of play during the second half of the regular season.

Then, in Game 1 of the playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, Porzingis suffered a tear to his lateral meniscus in the right knee.

The Mavericks were holding off on surgery with the hope that Porzingis could play on the knee in the second round had they won the series against the Clippers. They lost in six games with Porzingis sitting out the final three.

The Mavericks can only wonder what it would have been like with a healthy Porzingis.

With the benefit of hindsight, expecting to beat one of the most physical and talented teams in the NBA without your best big man and one of the most difficult matchups in the league was asking too much.

And tack on the absence of Dwight Powell (Achilles) and Jalen Brunson (shoulder) and the Mavericks just lacked the needed manpower to survive against the Clips.

Porzingis said before the series ended against the Clippers that, if this was the end, it was a bitter way to close out his first season playing as a Maverick.

But he also feels that his knees are quite capable of holding him up as one of the cornerstones of this franchise and that surgery isn’t necessarily a certainty.

“It’s really tough and frustrating,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to getting healthy. Hopefully it can repair itself with injections and stuff. It depends on how I’m going to feel in the next few weeks and then the medical staff will make a decision (on surgery).

“I can’t really be too worried about that (having injuries to both knees). Both of them were contact injuries. These things happen. What I can control is do all the preventative work I can.”

And that will be a top priority as the Mavericks get ready for what figures to be a short offseason. The playoffs won’t end until early October. The Mavericks will have time to rest and recover. But training camp for the 2020-21 season could open as soon as Thanksgiving.

Luka Dončić left the season knowing exactly what he wanted to work on: everything, although he specifically said he needs to work on shooting. And that would include free-throw shooting, which was only 65.6 percent in the playoffs. That won’t do for a guy who goes to the line more than 10 times per game.

He also was just 31.8 percent from 3-point range in the regular season, although he bumped that up to 36.4 percent in the six playoff games.

For Porzingis, it will be more about working on his body than any particular aspect of his game. There was no arguing with his production after the All-Star break. He averaged 26 points and 10.5 rebounds in 15 games.

In the three playoff games he played, he averaged 23.7 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 53 percent from 3-point range.

And he did all that on one leg.

So the mission for Porzingis is clear.

He’ll be looking for a little luck in the health department next season. And he’s going to use the offseason to help facilitate that.

Twitter: @ESefko


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