DALLAS – From his seat perched on the Dallas Mavericks’ bench, Kristaps Porzingis has a bird’s eye view of the way Luka Doncic has been a very dominant force in just his rookie season in the NBA.
That dominance by Doncic is why Porzingis is licking his chops and anxiously waiting for the chance to play with one of the league’s more dynamic players.
“I’m happy for him, first of all,” Porzingis said. “I’m happy that he’s able to come in the league and make an impact like that right away.
“It makes me excited and anxious to get back on the court and play with him and share the court with him. I think we can be a pretty special duo together.”
That’s exactly what the Mavs are hoping. But they have to temper their excitement until next season, because they’ve already said they’re holding Porzingis out the rest of this season as a precaution.
While he was playing for the New York Knicks last season, Porzingis tore his left anterior cruciate ligament during a Feb. 6, 2018 game against the Milwaukee Bucks. The 7-3 center underwent successful surgery on Feb. 13 – almost a year ago – and has been steadily rehabbing his knee so he can hit the ground running when training camp opens next fall.
In the meantime, Porzingis has this image stuck in his head of what it’ll be like once he takes the court with Doncic. He’s picturing the full-fledge images of himself being on the receiving end of some of those mind-boggling lob dunks Doncic is famous for making, and how that can uplift a team, a city and an organization.
“I visualize myself playing alongside these guys and playing alongside Luka and what we’ll be able to do on the court, and it makes me excited,” Porzingis said. “But I’m in a tough moment.
“I’m around the team and I’m watching them play and I wish I could be out there helping them and playing the game I love. But the situation is what it is right now and I have to stay patient and take care of this knee and take care of my body, and build up my body so when I come back I’m even better than I was before.”
When asked about it, Porzingis sees the Mavs being NBA champions again sometimes in the next four-to-five years, with the accompanying parade and confetti adorning the streets of downtown Dallas similar to the wild scene when the Mavs won the whole thing in 2011. In essence, the big man is thinking big
“That is the goal, to win a championship,” Porzingis said. “And that is my only goal, really.
“You don’t want to get too far ahead, but that is the goal. The first step to that is to make the playoffs and then step-by-step I want to get to that place where you get to learn, and then win a championship.”
Part of that learning process is taking shape right now for Porzingis. Although he can’t personally make any contributions on the court as a player right now, mentally he’s soaking it all in on what it takes to be a formidable member of this franchise.
Still, the burdensome of having to sit for what will amount to be approximately 20 months by the time next season starts is weighing heavily on Porzingis’ heart.
“It’s very hard (to be sidelined), especially for that long,” Porzingis said. “You have little injuries here and there, you sit out for a little bit, but to be out for that long, it’s not that easy. It’s probably the toughest thing to go through mentally not being able to play.
“Being around the team all the time and not being able to play is just really, really tough. I didn’t think it was going to be that tough, obviously, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just have to stay patient and keep doing what I’m doing and make sure I’m back better than I was before.”
Affectionately hailed as a unicorn when he played for the Knicks, Porzingis averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks last season when he was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team. His season-ending torn ACL prevented him from playing in the midseason classic, but there was no doubting his skill set and his abilities to carry a franchise.
Porzingis has even been often compared to Mavs superstar Dirk Nowitzki, who re-invented the NBA game today to where big men constantly float outside the paint and hoist up 3-point field goals. The similarities are flattering to Porzingis, but he knows that’s only what they are – similarities.
“Of course, there is some similarities,” Porzingis said. “You see the height and the ability to shoot the ball. Dirk is one of the greatest shooters ever, and I don’t want to compare myself to him. I still have a ways to go to get to that level.
“There are some similarities, but also we have our differences. We’re a different player in a lot of areas of the game, but I’m glad to be here to be able to learn from him and pick up a lot of those things that he has perfected throughout his career.”
Meanwhile, Porzingis noted that his rehab is “going well,” and that he’s waiting on his luxury car to arrive from New York so he can drive himself around Dallas.
“I’m happy about the progress I’ve made and I’m looking forward to coming back on the court,” Porzingis said. “I love the city so far, I’ve had great experiences here in Dallas and I’m excited to get to know the city more.
“I’ve been itching already for a while to get back on the court and play basketball. But I’m trying to stay patient and then put in the work and make sure that when I can come back I’m 110 percent, and me and Luka can really take this thing to the next level.”