Kristaps Porzingis is on the verge of returning from a sore right knee that has sidelined him the last seven games.
The Mavericks’ 7-3 center-forward on Monday went through most of practice, the first time he’s done so since the knee flared up on New Year’s Eve. His status has been upgraded to questionable going into Tuesday’s visit to Golden State, according to the Mavericks.
In addition to the knee, Porzingis also has been dealing with a lingering illness.
“KP got through most of practice,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s not feeling well again, so he isn’t doing great. But he did practice and got a sweat. To my knowledge, there were no issues with the knee.”
Carlisle said last week that there was a possibility Porzingis could play in one of the two games on this road trip, a back-to-back that concludes Wednesday at Sacramento.
The knee remains the concern more than the illness and Carlisle said how Porzingis responds to Monday’s practice will be taken into consideration.
“We’ll just have to see how he feels tomorrow coming off the practice with the knee and also with the illness,” he said. “And we’ll see where we are. We got a little unlucky with this health stuff. He’s continued to progress. But this is the first practice. This wasn’t a full live practice, but there was some contact and a lot of movement. He appeared to be doing well, but you never know until the next day.”
The Mavericks have gone 3-4 without Porzingis. He was on a significant roll before the injury, having kept the Mavericks afloat while Luka Doncic was out with a sprained ankle.
In the nine games before he was injured, Porzingis averaged 19.3 points and 11 rebounds. He shot 35.3 percent from 3-point range during that stretch.
“We miss him,” Carlisle said. “That’s obvious. I don’t like getting into the excuse game when you’re missing any player because you have a deep roster to take up for that. And as a team you just got to find a way to win some games.
“But we are where we are.”
The Mavericks have had to play a little differently without Porzingis, particularly at the defensive end. He’s been in the top five virtually all season in the shot-blocking department.
“KP brings a lot to this team, offensively and defensively,” said Dwight Powell. “Obviously his length defensively, his presence alone, makes guys change how they play offensively. When he’s not in there, we have to be more focused and locked in, and key on our on-ball defense and take care of the middle knowing that we may not have that same length at the rim.”
Powell added that the absence of Porzingis has served another purpose when it comes to a young team learning how to grow and win.
“It’s been a learning process for a lot of us trying to figure things out,” he said. “We’ve done a great job of improving. We’ve had some different lineups with injuries and learning to fill those gaps and having different guys stepping up in different situations is important for us.
“We have a talented group, but we are young. There are a lot of things we need to improve at and need to learn. We’ve done a good job of accepting and acknowledging that and not getting ahead of ourselves. We have not arrived in any way. Just because we’ve had some successes doesn’t mean we don’t have to get better.”
Porzingis’ return should do nothing but help that.
Going day by day: The Mavericks went 3-3 on their longest home stand of the season and now start a road-heavy portion of the season.
Judging by their 12-5 road record (compared to 12-10 at home), you’d think this would be a team eager to hit the road.
But that’s not necessarily the case.
“This road trip is challenging, two games in two nights. And they’re all big games,” Carlisle said. “I just go by the schedule. I’m not going to get into saying I don’t like playing at home. I love playing at home. We’ll have a lot more opportunities to play at home.
“But the most important thing right now is getting on a plane and going to San Fran and getting ready to play Golden State.”
Dwight Powell said he has no rational explanation for why the Mavericks have been so much better on the road.
“That’s one of the things we have to continue to analyze and figure out how to capsulate that success on the road and bring it home with us,” Powell said, perhaps becoming the first NBA player ever to use capsulate in a quote. “But at the same time, continue to do the same things we’ve been doing on the road and compete at a high level in other people’s arenas.”