Reading the tea leaves, it appears that Kristaps Porzingis’ sore right knee is not something that is expected to linger close to, or into, the playoffs.
But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with now.
Rick Carlisle said before Saturday’s meeting with Washington that the Mavericks’ big man would sit out both games this weekend (Sacramento on Sunday) to rehab his knee.
There will be eight games remaining after Sunday, without a lot of rest time in between them. Those eight contests will be compressed into 13 days, including two back-to-back sets of games.
“He’s going to rehab and work out,” Carlisle said. “He’s doing better than he was two nights ago in Detroit. Things are moving in a good direction.
“But beyond him being out these two games, there’s no other information, other than he really is diligent about his work, whether it’s rehab work, whether it’s strength training, functional training or whatever it is. We’ll just do the best we can to work through it.”
Porzingis’ right knee required meniscus surgery in the offseason. He sat out the first nine games this season while recovering.
Since then, he was held out six times for injury recovery management. He’s also fought several other nagging injuries (among them, lower back tightness and a sprained left ankle.
The Mavericks’ medical staff has been vigilant about trying to get Porzingis and Luka Dončić get the appropriate amount of rest in this season when games have come with a greater frequency.
Clearly, the Mavericks are trying to get Porzingis as healthy and as rested as possible for the postseason.
The 7-3 center missed three games last week with the ankle problem. He returned in Detroit on Thursday, but exited in the third quarter with the sore knee.
Overall, Porzingis has played 40 of 63 games this season.
Foreign territory? Not anymore: The Mavericks have seven players on their roster born outside the United States.
The Wizards have six.
The gave Saturday’s game a very international feel to it. And it afforded the coaches in the game, both of whom played in the NBA when foreign players started migrating to the NBA, an opportunity to talk about the globalization of the league.
“Ever since ’92, the original Dream Team, maybe the greatest team ever assembled, that really just created an excitement throughout the world,” Wizards’ coach Scott Brooks said. “Everybody wanted to play like them and be an NBA player, no matter what part of the world you were from. Ever since then, it’s just taken off.”
Carlisle was playing when the first Europeans, Georgi Glouchkov of Bulgaria and Fernando Martin of Spain played in the NBA. Hakeem Olajuwon of Nigeria had entered the NBA in 1984.
But the real start of the internationalizing of the NBA started with Sarunas Marciulionis, who was uncovered by Donnie Nelson, the Mavericks’ president of basketball operations who was with Golden State at the time. The Warriors drafted Marciulionis and eventually got him to the league a couple years later.
“Donnie Nelson has been the guy who probably has had the greatest impact on the influx of international players,” Carlisle said. “It really started with Sarunas. There was a lot of bureaucratic red tape that had to be worked through to get him over here. But that was a tipping-point moment for international players. And once people saw how good he was and the impact he could have in the NBA, there became a greater focus on scouting the international game and cultivating international talent.”
Carlisle was an assistant coach with New Jersey when they acquired Drazen Petrovic. The Croatian was third-team all-NBA in 1992-93 before his untimely death.
Other international players, such as Toni Kukoc and Dikembe Mutombo, were funneling into the league about the same time.
“And then I was in Portland when Arvydas Sabonis came over at age 31 at the time and had quite a few injuries, but he had a high level of impact on the game,” Carlisle said. “And now 20-some years later his son – I remember going to Arvydas’ house and congratulating him and his wife when Domantas was born, I believe that was 1996. So a lot of things have come full circle.”
It’s come so full circle that every NBA team invests millions of dollars and other resources scouring the globe for talent.
It no longer matters where that talent comes from.
“It’s crazy, I don’t look at any of our guys as not from America,” Brooks said. “I just look at them as basketball players that are going to help us win games. We’ve come a long way.
“I know when I first started playing, there were very few and mainly you would consider them perimeter players that just wanted to shoot jump shots. They didn’t want to mix it up. Not saying they were soft, but that wasn’t their style of play. Now, they’re tough as nails. They do more than just shoot. They’re basketball players. I think it’s a credit to what the 1992 Dream Team brought to the world.”
In praise of Westbrook: The Wizards acquired Russell Westbrook before this season and after some rough spots, the veteran triple-double machine has led Washington into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
And, of course, his numbers continue to be legendary. He has 177 triple-doubles, four shy of Oscar Robertson’s record. Dončić is 11th on the list with 35 after his monster triple-double Saturday against the Wizards.
“I think we’re all looking at this in amazement,” Carlisle said. “It’s such a phenomenal achievement. Only one person in history had done it before him and that was Oscar back in the ‘60s. The game has evolved and there’s more pace, more opportunities for scoring, rebounding and assists because there’s a lot more possessions.
“But this guy, what he’s doing, I don’t even know where to begin to try to describe how phenomenally impressive it is. It’s not just stat stuff. The guy has driven winning at a high level too. He’s a first-ballot hall of famer. He’s just a phenomenal, phenomenal player.”