DALLAS – For seemingly the millionth time on Thursday afternoon, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle expressed to the media that center/forward Kristaps Porzingis will not be playing in any games this season.
Period. Paragraph. End of story.
Porzingis, however, did get in some more work with the Mavs’ first unit during Thursday’s practice at the Lympo practice facilities. That, in effect, is the Mavs’ way of attempting to get a head start on next season when Porzingis is expected to be a very major factor for a team trying to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-’16 season.
“When he had his first five-on-five scrimmage two-and-a-half or three weeks ago, and had them with that same starting group, it’s let’s not mess around here,” Carlisle said. “Let’s get to it, let’s see what this looks like, let’s get him acquainted with the guys that he’s likely going to be playing with and move forward from there.”
Dallas acquired Porzingis in a blockbuster trade on Jan. 31 that involved seven players and two draft picks. The Mavs view the 7-3, 240-pounder as a game-changer of epic proportions, and as someone who can exponentially tilt the scales in their favor for many years to come.
“He’s a terrific player,” Carlisle said. “I think he’s going to have a lot of impact at both ends of the floor.
“A 7-3 guy with quickness that can block shots defensively is a big asset, and then he just has really unique skills offensively to be able to really navigate any area on the floor. He can score from inside, mid-range, outside and three, so he’s a very unique talent.”
When the Mavs acquired Porzingis, he was in the midst of rehabbing his surgically repaired torn left anterior cruciate ligament. The 23-year old suffered the injury during a Feb. 6, 2018 game against the Milwaukee Bucks and underwent surgery on Feb. 13, 2018.
Before the injury, last year Porzingis averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and an NBA-high 2.4 blocks per game. He also was selected to represent the Eastern Conference in last year’s All-Star game.
But that all got derailed due to the ACL injury. And that contest against the Bucks was the last time Porzingis has played in a game.
“You can tell he’s itching to play,” center Dwight Powell said. “We’re out here playing five-on-five practice, and obviously in April it’s a grind, but he’s competing.
“You can tell he wants to play. He looks healthy and he’s obviously really long and affects the game both offensively and defensively, and we’re looking forward to it. We’re practicing together now, so I can see some of the things that are exciting right now.”
Still, the Mavs’ plan all along was to let Porzingis fully heal and not play him at all until next season.
“He’s been practicing for a month, but he’s not going to play in any games, but he’s doing extremely well,” Carlisle said. “He’s using this time to finish the rehab, develop the body, strengthen the body and then work into practice situations, which he’s been doing very successful.
“So, we’re extremely happy and very encouraged.”