Rick Carlisle took time on Tuesday to talk a lot of Mavericks’ fans off the ledge.
With Kristaps Porzingis sidelined for the second consecutive night with lower-back tightness, rumors began to fly.
Is the injury worse than anybody thought? Is the 7-3 Porzingis being held out for some other reason?
Carlisle wanted to set the record straight.
“The back thing, I don’t expect to be a long-term thing,” Carlisle said before the Mavericks-Celtics game. “We’ll work through this and we’ll get him back on the floor as soon as we can.”
Maxi Kleber (left ankle) also missed Tuesday’s game, but his situation also is not expected to be a lingering problem.
Carlisle reiterated that Porzingis’ back problem very likely is a product of having his training camp in live games when he returned from knee surgery in January.
After being one of the best players in the restart bubble last season, Porzingis had an injury to his lateral meniscus in the playoffs. That led to surgery in October and three months of rehab.
“He’s been here the better part of two years now since the trade,” Carlisle said. “It’s well documented. When he came here, it had been determined that he wasn’t going to play any games that year. He did practice at the end of the year.
“He had a little bit of an up and down start to his first year of playing, which is completely predictable being out 18 or 19 months. Then fell into a great groove. Coming off the bubble, there was this meniscus thing that needed to be addressed and he’s done very well with that. And the challenge comes with starting your season midstream and not having the summer workouts, the preseason workouts or the traditional training camp to build a base. I sound like a broken record.”
And, of course, Porzingis being idle after an eight-day break between games lit up speculation popped up about whether the Mavericks were kicking the tires on interest from other teams in Porzingis.
First Mark Cuban, via several media outlets, then Carlisle in his pregame news conference refuted any such discussions.
“There’s no trades we’re presenting for Porzingis,” Carlisle said. “There’s nothing that’s been explored. I know Mark has denied it. I’m denying it. He’s a Maverick. We expect him to be here.”
The first priority is to get him healthy again. Until that happens, they can’t begin addressing the defensive problems that have been evident with Porzingis on the floor. After a recent practice, Carlisle addressed that situation.
“We’re working on that. He’s working on it,” he said. “The difference this year is pretty obvious. He started this season essentially a month after everyone else did and not have the benefit of going through a regular training camp situation.
“We’ve worked a lot on defense (during the eight-day break). We need the work. It’s something we just got to keep as a priority for all of us.”
Schedule update: The NBA appears to be close to releasing the second half of the schedule, but the Mavericks had some interesting conversations with the league office last week when the wild weather blew through.
They had games postponed on Wednesday against Detroit and Friday at Houston. The Mavericks also had a home game postponed in January against New Orleans.
“We were working with the league after the Detroit game was canceled – and we were pretty certain the Houston game was going to be canceled – to try to get a game scheduled for Saturday,” Carlisle said. “There was even some thought of possibly doing something to play Friday somewhere. But it just wasn’t possible.”
With that, the Mavericks went to work the only way they could.
“When you can’t make something happen the way you’d like, you got to take your situation and do the best you can with it,” Carlisle said. “The guys were terrific last week. Coming off the disappointing loss to Portland, their concentration was good, their competitiveness was good. They understood we needed to work, particularly defensively.”
Misery loves company: The Mavericks aren’t the only team that are fighting through tough times.
The Celtics that visited Tuesday also have had a disappointing first half of the season, trolling along at .500 coming into Tuesday’s game. Last season at this stage, they were 22-8.
As coach Brad Stevens said, sometimes in a season, “you can be on a stretch or a trend that’s not going so hot, like we are. And then that can be something you work on and you’re even more focused on and it becomes a strength. That’s what we have to make it right now.
“Confidence comes from doing hard things. Confidence comes from preparing. Confidence comes from getting it done when it’s all on the line against another team that’s going full speed trying to take it from you.”
Not much different than a lot of the things Carlisle has been relaying to the Mavericks.
G-League update: The Mavericks have four rookies working in the G-League bubble and Carlisle gave a quick update on Tuesday.
“I talked to all of them two days ago,” he said. “They’re doing a great job and they’re getting the kind of experience that they desperately need and, really, what we could not provide them here.”
First-round pick (18th overall) Josh Green made his G-League debut Tuesday with 16 points. He joined second-round picks Tyrell Terry and Tyler Bey and undrafted free agent Nate Hinton in the bubble.
“We’re happy for them, proud of them and this is an important part of building up their career,” Carlisle said.