DALLAS — From the time Kristaps Porzingis suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament last season until the time he next plays in an NBA game, approximately 20 months will have passed.
Keeping Porzingis on the sidelines for that amount of time was perhaps the plan when he was a member of the New York Knicks. But it’s definitely the plan now that he’s a member the Dallas Mavericks.
“That was the plan from the beginning and we’re sticking to the plan,” Porzingis said. “Twenty months of not playing, obviously I expect there will be some rust.
“But I’m a guy that visualizes a lot on how I play, and I watch a lot of film. Hopefully I’ll be quickly back in my rhythm by then.”
That’s what the Mavs also hope as Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr, Courtney Lee and Trey Burke were introduced to the Dallas/Fort Worth media at a press conference Monday afternoon at American Airlines Center. The four players were traded to the Mavs from the Knicks last Thursday for Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and a pair of first-round draft picks.
Porzingis has yet to play since tearing his ACL last season during a Feb. 6 game against the Milwaukee Bucks. And the plan is for him to sit out the remainder of this season so he can be totally healed by the time training camp opens next fall.
“Whatever the plan was in his previous organization really isn’t relevant at this point and time,” proprietor Mark Cuban said. “We have our doctors, we’re working with his team, and right now the 100 percent plan is for him not to play (this season).
“It’s playing it safe. There’s no reason to risk it, and we want to do the right thing for him, because we want him to be here a long, long time, and these last 30 games are not going to make or break a career or his future with the Mavs, so we just felt like it was the right thing to do.”
Porzingis acknowledged that he’s “doing really well” and whenever he plays again, he expects to pick up where he left off last season when he averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks and was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star squad.
“I’m excited to get back on the floor as soon as possible,” said Porzingis, who has been compared favorably to Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki. “I’ve got to be patient and do all the little things right, but I’m excited because I feel great, I feel bouncy and I’m ready to get back on the court.”
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle also is excited about having a player of Porzingis’ ilk added to his roster. At 7-3 and 240 pounds, Porzingis is a natural power forward who can bang in 3-pointers the same way Dirk Nowitzki has done for the Mavs for the past 21 years.
Yet, Porzingis is also formidable enough to where he can slide down inside the paint and perform admirably at the center position.
“Kristaps and I have talked a lot in a short period of time about how I see him being integrated into what we do,” Carlisle said. “We have a lot of experience with players of his body type and his skill set, because of Dirk being here for 11 years so far for me. The possibilities are very exciting.”
Although he won’t have Porzingis in a game until next season, Carlisle knows that time will be here quicker than anyone expects. Also, Cuban said he plans to sign Porzingis to a long-term deal when he becomes a restricted free agent in July.
“Next September (when training camp starts) seems like a long way away, but time’s flying,” Carlisle said. “In today’s world of social media and things going a zillion miles an hour, we’re going to blink and it’s going to be Media Day in September of 2019 and we’ll be ready to go.”
Of course, Mavs fans are overly anxious to see how 19-year old rookie point guard Luka Doncic and the 23-year old Porzingis mesh together. Since they are the ying and the yang and the future of this organization, it’s a unison everyone expects to see on the court together for nearly the next two decades.
“We’ve got a great relationship,” Porzingis said of himself and Doncic. “I think for the first time we met maybe when we were both playing still in Spain.
“I remember he was a few years younger than me, and we just know each other from playing against each other for a long time. Now that I have the opportunity to play with him, I’m excited about it.”
That excitement has obviously spread throughout the Mavs’ organization as the team’s president of basketball operations, Donnie Nelson, can attest to.
“I see two guys that are going to put their own signature on their positions,” Nelson said, referring to Porzingis and Doncic. “I didn’t think when we drafted Dirk (in 1998) that he was Larry Bird, and I don’t think this young man to my left is Dirk.
“He’s going to put his own signature and have his own identity and he’s going to transform a couple of positions and I think that’s already happening.”
Porzingis knows that even though he won’t be available to play until next fall, that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t be engaged in any of the Mavs’ practice sessions this season.
“I think it’s going to have to be part of my rehab,” he said. “At some point you have to start playing one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three, five-on-five.
“As Mark said, we’re going to sit down, we’re going to evaluate the whole situation and make plans for my rehab.”
And those plans include everyone exercising a lot of patience.
“I feel great, but as I said we’re taking our time,” Porzingis said. “There’s no rush. I’ve been patient this whole time and I’m going to keep the same patience, which is one of the hardest things for me to do, but we’re going to make the right decision.
“It’s been a great 48 hours here, everybody has welcomed me with open arms and I’m excited to be part of this organization.”