Kristaps Porzingis has played four games since his much anticipated return from offseason right knee surgery. And in each game, the production of the Dallas Mavericks’ forward/center has steadily improved.
In his first game since returning from surgery last Wednesday, Porzingis finished with 16 points, four rebounds and two blocks in 21 minutes against the Charlotte Hornets. Then, against the Milwaukee Bucks, the 7-3 super talent put up 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 29 minutes.
During Sunday afternoon’s contest against the Chicago Bulls, Porzingis played a season-high 33 minutes and finished with 20 points, eight boards and a pair of blocked shots. And in Monday night’s second leg of a back-to-back against the Toronto Raptors, he collected a season-high 23 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 32 minutes.
In other words, Porzingis has been on a steady uptick in his return from surgery on Oct. 9 to address a lateral meniscus of his right knee.
“I think you can see that with every game I’m feeling more and more comfortable out there and trying to find my groove as well as us as a team,” Porzingis said. “I think I’m getting (closer to being at full strength).
“We have new guys that I’m playing with right now – new additions — and we don’t have some guys that we’re used to having. So it’s always an adjustment and it’s never the same situation and every game is different.”
Porzingis acknowledged that he put his trust in the Mavs’ medical staff, led by Casey Smith, the team’s director of player health and performance. Especially when it came to him playing games on back-to-back nights, which he rarely did last season — his first season since undergoing anterior cruciate ligament surgery on Feb. 13, 2018.
“The medical staff, they know that I’m eager to play, always, and that was the same case last year,” Porzingis said. “Last year we were maybe more careful because I was coming back from the ACL injury. This year I believe that I’m allowed to play back-to-backs, and we’ll see how it works going forward.
“But I’m happy I was able to be out there with my teammates (against the Raptors). It always sucks to not be able to play the second game (of a back-to-back). You know your teammates are also tired and you want to be out there with them and try to win these games.”
Porzingis said Smith and his staff had a plan for his eventual recovery, and they obviously wanted it to go as smooth as possible.
“They talk to me, see how I feel, and I try to be honest and let them know how I feel and that I want to play no matter the little things that happen throughout the season,” Porzingis said. “It’s a good relationship.
“We’ve developed a good relationship with the medical staff with Casey. We’re all in sync.”
Coach Rick Carlisle certainly likes the improvements that he’s seen from Porzingis in his four games this season. And he hopes it continues starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday when the Mavs (6-7) play the Pacers in Indiana.
“He’s doing better and better,” Carlisle said. “I think he’s feeling better. He just got to keep building on it.
“Again, this is a murderous week. Very, very difficult. But he really wanted to play (Monday). The trainers thought it was fine and I thought he did a great job.”
The Mavs are hopeful Porzingis can return to the period where he averaged an astonishing 30.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the six games he played in Orlando last summer while earning the NBA’s All-Seeding Games Second Team. That includes scoring 30 or more points in four of those six games.
Also, in the three games he played in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers last summer, Porzingis averaged 20.3 points and 8.7 rebounds. And that was after having those numbers affected because he was ejected early in the third quarter of Game 1 of that series.
Porzingis finished the series against the Clippers with a superb 34-point, 13-rebound performance in Game 3 before his body could no longer withstand the pain pounding in his right knee. Now, as he prepares for his fifth game of the season on Wednesday, Porzingis is grateful that arguably the NBA’s best medical staff has been by his side nearly every step of his recovery, and cheering him on with each step that he makes.
“I’m thankful for the staff here and for those conversations that we have,” Porzingis said. “I know they’re always looking out for me and my health, and I also listen to them.”