The need to get Kristaps Porzingis some game action before the playoffs apparently will happen, starting perhaps Wednesday against New Orleans.
Tentatively speaking, of course.
The 7-3 Porzingis went through Monday’s practice at Memphis but will not play against the Grizzlies on Tuesday.
Porzingis, who has been out for the past six games with right knee soreness, said he very much wants to play as many of the four remaining games as possible to prepare for the postseason.
“It wouldn’t be right if I (made his return in) the playoffs,” Porzingis said. “We’ve been building this whole regular season. Hopefully, I can get those last few games in to make sure my conditioning is good and just to clean everything up and make sure we’re ready to go in the playoffs.”
Porzingis said his knee problems started out as ankle problems. He speculated that maybe he compensated some for the ankle and that led to knee soreness.
But what he knows for certain is that he needs to be fully healthy to do the things he knows he can do on the court.
“It’s hard to be out watching the game without being out there playing the game I love,” he said. “But it is what it is. I have to be healthy when I’m out there. I cannot be not 100 percent when I’m out there.
“I (have been) putting in a lot of work, which is not fun when you’re by yourself. It’s never as fun as being with the team. But that’s when I have to lock in and be a soldier and do my work to make sure I can be as soon as possible back with the team. It’s a good feeling to get back closer to being able to play.
“It’s good the team is playing well. I look forward to adding more to what we’re doing right now.”
Porzingis has averaged 20.2 points and 9.1 rebounds in 40 games this season. He has fought an assortment of injuries but was able to go through practice on Monday.
“KP is doing better,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “KP is going to be out tomorrow (Tuesday). We would like to have him ready to play against New Orleans. We feel the extra day, particularly with the practice today, is very helpful. But again, that’s all subject to how he’s feeling. But he’s done very well the last 10 days in terms of significant, gradual process.”
Carlisle said the team desperately wants Porzingis to get his legs back under him before the playoffs get here.
“Definitely better for him to get back and get some games under his belt before the playoffs start – no question about that – for conditioning, for chemistry, for rhythm, for things having to do with the system,” Carlisle said. “With him now playing some four (power forward), defensively, when he’s guarding the four men, coverage responsibilities are different.”
Porzingis said he’s not overly concerned about playing center or power forward. He’s been switching back and forth much of the season, depending on who else is in the starting lineup.
Meanwhile, Maxi Kleber (right Achilles) also went through practice on Monday.
“Maxi’s doing better,” Carlisle said. “And he’s getting closer. We’ll see where he is tomorrow (Tuesday), how he’s feeling. But hoping to get him back in there as soon as he’s able.”
For starters: With the big men likely returning soon, it brings up the question of who sits when they are ready to get back in the starting lineup.
These are the sort of issues that coaches are happy to have. Having plenty of good options is always a good thing.
Tim Hardaway Jr. has been sensational in the last four games, all of which he started while Kleber was sidelined with the Achilles problem.
Hardaway averaged 26 points and shot 52.2 percent from 3-point range in those four games. It extended a longer hot streak for Hardaway, who has averaged 24.3 points in his last eight games (six starts).
So does Carlisle still start Hardaway when the big men get healthy?
“It’s a conversation that we’re having,” he said. “But we’ll see when guys come back. And when it turns into something where we have to make a hard decision.”
Josh Richardson also has been playing well and there are many factors at both ends of the court to weigh when it comes to who starts.
And, of course, who finishes is usually more important in an NBA playoff game.
“The good news is we want to get as many guys playing well as possible and when it comes time to make hard decisions on who starts and who doesn’t start, the important thing is that guys are ready to play and ready to fill the roles necessary for us,” Carlisle said. “We’ll adjust as we need to adjust.”
Confidence boost: A good byproduct of the injuries to Porzingis and Kleber is that a lot of other players have picked up extra playing time and gotten a confidence boost not only with their play but by the team winning four games in a row.
Willie Cauley-Stein has been starting, but also Dwight Powell, Josh Green, Nico Melli and Trey Burke have excelled.
“As certain guys have missed games, other guys have had to step up,” Carlisle said. “These guys do the work, they’re prepared, which makes them confident to begin with. There’s been opportunity here. Guys have taken advantage of it to help the team.
“As Maxi and KP get closer to coming back, that’s great news for us.”
Briefly: Carlisle was extremely impressed with the way the Mavericks moved the basketball on Sunday at Cleveland. They racked up a season-best 33 assists in that game. “Guys played terrific basketball,” Carlisle said. “They moved it on offense, they helped each other on defense. They rebounded. And hit some shots and got some separation.” . . . The Mavericks finish the season with Memphis Tuesday, New Orleans Wednesday, Toronto Friday and Minnesota on Sunday.
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