Most Americans turned back their clocks an hour last weekend when daylight savings time ended. But Dallas Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis has absolutely no desire to turn back the hands of time and relive most of the moments he had with the New York Knicks.
Some of those moments, Porzingis said, do not paint an honest or fair picture of the man that he is today. And some of those moments were born out of pure frustration when the Knicks traded Porzingis to the Mavs on Jan. 31.
“With all the emotions going on in that moment when I got traded, I put out some stupid Instagram stories just laying in my bed late at night – man I got traded,” Porzingis said following Thursday’s practice. “We all make mistakes.
“There was no smooth way out of it. It got a little bit ugly, but it’s in the past. It’s in the past right now and I have nothing negative to say really about that situation. It’s all a learning process and I‘m happy to be here.”
Porzingis was the fourth overall pick of the 2015 draft by the Knicks and was hailed as the team’s long-term centerpiece. But after averaging 17.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and two blocked shots in 186 games for the Knicks spanning two-and-a-half seasons, Porzingis was ultimately traded to the Mavs in a blockbuster deal that involved shipping Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews to New York.
Realizing that Knicks fans were critical of him following the trade, Porzingis said: “It’s a part of the business. I have nothing but love for the city of New York and the fans. They showed me so much support the time I was there.
“They’re so passionate about the team, so it’s normal that they feel that way. All I can do is just look forward to what I have in front of me and not behind, and that’s it. So, it is what it is.”
With nearly two dozen reporters huddled around him and picking and probing and hanging on his every word after Thursday’s practice at the Lympo practice facilities, Porzingis discussed his desire to locate the portion of his game that helped him become a part of the 2018 Eastern Conference All-Star team. That Kristaps Porzingis, he acknowledged, is AWOL, and the 2019 version of Kristaps Porzingis isn’t too thrilled about it.
“I just want to play well and win games and show what I know, what I’m capable of, but right now I’m not there yet and that is very frustrating,” Porzingis said. “The only thing I can do is look forward now.
“I want to figure this thing out. Once I get back to where I want to get back to, it’ll feel even better going through this right now. I just want to figure it out as soon as possible, but I have to give myself time and I have to make it simple for myself.”
It’s been over 21 months since Porzingis tore his left anterior cruciate ligament. The accompanying surgery and rehab took on a life of its own and left Porzingis feeling blasé.
Porzingis said: “I didn’t realize it, but when you get that basketball part taken away from you, I was in a little bit of a moment where I’m like, ‘I’m a basketball player.’ But when it’s taken away from you, you feel like a huge part of you is taken and you don’t really know . . . it’s a weird thing, but not who am I, but it’s like what am I supposed to do right now? It was that kind of thing.
“And at the end, we’ve all got to realize at some point this is going to end – I’m not going to be a basketball player my whole life – and it’s a scary feeling once that basketball part is taken away from you. So that made me think a lot, and being in that situation that allowed me to grow and realize that there’s much more things outside of basketball.”
The soul-searching on his part had Porzingis reaching out for help, and wanting some assistance on how to cope with his life away from basketball. Rehabbing was one thing, but when the trade came, and more rehab was on the table, and playing in actual basketball games was not part of the equation, Porzingis simply felt empty.
“I’m a little bit of a person that holds everything to myself,” Porzingis said. “I hold everything to myself sometimes too much, because I want to figure it out by myself, but I have a great support system around me.
“I have my physical therapist, Manolo, and there’s great people here in the (Mavs’) organization. Shout out to our (director of sports psychology) psychologist, DK (Don Kalkstein). There’s a lot of people that you can talk to if you need help, and if you just want to talk. There’s nothing wrong with me, but it’s good to talk to somebody sometimes.”
Porzingis will have some more familiar faces to talk to on Friday when the Mavs host the Knicks at 7:30 p.m. at American Airlines Center. It will be his first game against the Knicks since the trade, and he tried to brush it off as just one game in an 82-game season.
“It’s another game and I’m looking forward to the game and getting a win most importantly, but also for myself individually I want to get back in my groove,” Porzingis said. “I’ve had some decent moments already, but it’s a mix of a lot of things that are new for me and that are there for me to figure out, and I have to get the feel back.
“And the spots that I’m getting to (in order) to get my shots are not maybe the usual spots that I was getting used to when I played in New York.”
Coach Rick Carlisle has worked diligently with Porzingis in trying to make sure he’s a central part of the team’s offense. Through the Mavs’ first six games Porzingis was averaging 20.5 points, but he scored just 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting during Wednesday’s 107-106 victory over Orlando.
Carlisle, knows that in due time Porzingis will turn back into the player that captivated Knicks fans and averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and an NBA-high 24 blocks in the season when he tore his ACL. Yet he also wants to help Porzingis find his sweet spots on the floor.
“I don’t know that anyone has ever done this, come back after 20 months and then be put in the starting lineup,” Carlisle said. “He was a 20-point scorer after six games, so that’s pretty remarkable.
“I think his overall conditioning and rhythm is something that’s going to happen over a longer period of time.”
Simply put, Porzingis is anxious to prove he’s that diamond that the Mavs traded for. He just wants to put a ring on it right now.
“He’s just a great team guy, he wants everything to happen all at once and it’s just something that simple is going to take some time,” Carlisle said. “That said, he’s averaging around 30 minutes a game — he’s played 37 (minutes) in one game without issue.
“It speaks to the amount of work that he’s put it to rehab, recovery and everything else.”
It also speaks to something else that has made Porzingis one of the NBA’s more intriguing players. Nicknamed the Unicorn because of his array of unique talents, the 7-3, 240-pound Porzingis is a threat to score from any position on the court.
“In the case of KP, he’s one of the best spacers in the history of the game if you look at the analytics on it,” Carlisle said. “When he’s out above the arc it has an amazing positive effect on the team that he’s playing for, whether it was New York or whether it’s us.
“That aspect of it helps our team, so if we can create problems and get him open in that area, that’s great for him stepping into shots. But beyond that, I’m still tweaking some things.”
Porzingis hopes the tweaks come in time for him to show the Knicks what he’s been up to since he left The Big Apple.
“We’re going to find some ways to get him some easier shots, but on many levels this is a (test of patience). And also we’re playing a style that he’s never played before,” Carlisle said. “His national teams and the teams growing up were very structured and very play-call oriented. Our goal is to not be that.
“Our goal is to be a space and free-flowing team, so if this is your first go-around with that kind of alignment, it takes some getting used to. But he’s getting there.”
Porzingis is frustrated that he isn’t consistently causing the problems for opposing teams on the court that he caused when he was with the Knicks.
“I try not to beat myself up too much about it, but I’m the first person that wants to get out of this moment that I’m in,” Porzingis said. “Especially myself, I want to lead, I want to be an example, I want to be in the gym, and when you’re not able to do those things it’s a weird feeling.
“But it’s all a learning experience and I’m glad I went through that. It allowed me to grow as a person. It seems like a big deal, but it’s really nothing — putting everything into perspective. I just want to hoop and win and play well, but you’ve got to go through stuff like this.”