When he sat down to discuss his latest unfortunate injury with Mavs.com, one of the first things Dallas Mavericks forward/center Kristaps Porzingis wanted to do is convince his followers that surgery to repair his lateral meniscus tear in his right knee pales in comparison to the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered to his left knee.
“I’m in a good place and I’m just putting in the work necessary to be on the court as soon as possible,” Porzingis said on Wednesday. “I’ll be back from this in no time.
“I believe I’ll be healthy and I’ll be playing great, great basketball for Dallas.”
Porzingis tore his lateral meniscus on Aug. 17 during Game 1 of the Mavs’ first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, and surgery was on Oct. 9. Meanwhile, the 7-3, 240-pounder had surgery to repair his ACL on Feb. 13, 2018, sitting out until Oct. 23, 2019.
However, Porzingis rebounded well and was playing some of the best basketball of his career. And he expects that to continue once he returns from his latest injury.
“The way I was playing, I was feeling the best I’ve felt in my career,” Porzingis said. “I think that shows that if I was able to come back from that, then this little thing is nothing compared to it.”
In a wide-ranging interview with Mavs.com, Porzingis, 25, said he’s “doing pretty good” and is anxious to get back on the basketball court alongside Luka Doncic and the rest of his teammates.
“I’m rehabbing six days a week,” he said. “Just doing a lot of rehab stuff and strengthening the quad and just focused on the rehab pretty much. The good thing about this (injury) is that compared to the ACL, this one is like almost day-by-day I can see some progress.
“The ACL, I would say it was like walking in a desert a little bit. This one is moving faster and I’m making progress quicker, and I’m feeling good.”
Porzingis, who said his family is doing great, plans to leave Latvia and be back in Dallas on Nov. 27. Here’s the remainder of the interview with Mavs.com.
Mavs.com: At what point do you anticipate being able to be back on the court to resume basketball-related activities?
Porzingis: I think I’m pretty close to being able to get some shots up. I’ll pretty much be able to do it right now, I think. We’re just taking it easy, we’re taking our time, but I’m pretty much there and I can’t wait to start doing more stuff. But I have to be smart, and I have to be patient.
Mavs.com: Is there a timetable on when you anticipate you’ll be able to play in a game?
Porzingis: Not really. I would like to know that date, also. The only thing I know is that I’m recovering well, and that’s the most important thing. I would like to start as soon as possible, and I’m doing all the things necessary to do that. I’m in good hands. I don’t really think about that too much honestly. I’m in good hands and I know I have great people around me to make sure that they’ll let me on the court whenever they think I’m ready to be on the court.
Mavs.com: Do you remember exactly when you suffered that injury against the Clippers?
Porzingis: It was contact. I was going for a rebound, if I remember correctly. I just felt a little pain, and that was it. And then once the adrenalin after the game came down and my body cooled down, then I really felt it. I was like, ‘Let’s try to get it going for the next game.’ That was my mindset. All I know is it was the playoffs, and it was what else (am I going to try and play) if it’s not for this? I was able to sacrifice everything, and I did. For a couple of games I was able to play through it, but at the end it just didn’t make sense for me to keep pushing it and maybe turn it into something worse. I think we made the right decision and now I’m going to be back healthy and ready to make another run.
Mavs.com: What can you tell fans of the Mavericks to let them know that you’re going to be Ok, and that you’re not snake-bitten?
Porzingis: What I can do is make sure that I’m as professional as I can be, and do all the work necessary. Your mind is also a powerful thing. And make sure your mind is in the right place, and then just go out there and play. At the end, I have to play fearlessly. I cannot be thinking about things that have happened. I believe these are things that just happened and there was nothing I was able to do to avoid them, and what I can do is make sure I do all the work that I can to make sure that I’m healthy on the court and playing the highest level of basketball I can.
Mavs.com: You successfully came back from the ACL injury. Is this an injury that is not as devastating as the ACL injury you had back in February of 2018?
Porzingis: The way I came back from the ACL injury, being my height, I think it shows what I went through and what I was able to come back from, and that’s gone. It’s not like the ACL, you feel it for the rest of your career. The way I was playing, I was feeling the best I’ve felt in my career. I think that shows that if I was able to come back from that, then this little thing is nothing compared to it. I believe I’ll be healthy and I’ll be playing great, great basketball for Dallas.
Mavs.com: You unfortunately had two knee injuries – one on each knee — approximately within a 30-month span. Did you ever pause to think: “Why me?”
Porzingis: It happens. I didn’t dwell on it too long. Obviously, the moment (of the lateral meniscus tear) was a tough moment, because you’re in the playoffs and we’re playing good and we had a chance to beat the Clippers. And for something to happen in that moment, it was tough. But as soon as I realized that there was really not much that I could do at that moment, then I just kind of changed my mindset to look ahead and see how I can get back from this as soon as possible. I played through it a few games, but at one point it was just too much, and I felt and the medical staff felt like it wasn’t in our best interest in the long term for me to go out there and play. As I said, it was tough, but it was the right decision. This is a much easier rehab, I would say, than the ACL one that I went through. I’ll be back from this in no time.
Mavs.com: The Mavs were without Dwight Powell, Jalen Brunson and Willie Cauley-Stein inside the bubble. And you missed the last three games of the playoff series against the Clippers. Do you feel you guys would have won that series if everyone was completely healthy and able to play?
Porzingis: I believe so. We all believed that. We always believe in ourselves, and we wanted to beat them and we wanted to go as far as we could. It just didn’t happen for us, and that’s how it is. That’s how sports is and basketball is. We’re looking forward to our next opportunity.
Mavs.com: Last year you and your teammates set a goal of qualifying for the playoffs, and you achieved that goal. Have you guys set a goal for the 2020-’21 season yet?
Porzingis: Not yet. I have things in my mind on what I believe we can achieve, but I like to keep those things to myself. I think it’s important that we as a team are on the same page. Again, we can look at the ultimate goal, which is to win a championship. That has to be our motivation each and every day that we work. It’s no secret that that’s the goal for us and for our team, so that’s what we’re going to put all of our efforts into.
Mavs.com: The season is slated to start on Dec. 22. What are your thoughts about the upcoming 72-game season?
Porzingis: Everybody has to adapt to these times, and I think the NBA did an amazing job with the bubble. We were able to complete the season, which I think was really huge for us, for the league and for people that love basketball. And I believe that the NBA will do an amazing job also in this upcoming season to make sure we stay as safe as possible and we keep playing the game and we keep living our normal lives, and I think that’s what’s important. No matter what the schedule is, I think we’re all going to be able to adapt.
Mavs.com: Many NBA experts have the Mavs mentioned in the same breath in the Western Conference alongside the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets and Clippers. What’s it like to be mentioned among the elite teams out West?
Porzingis: I believe that that’s how they see us, but I don’t really focus on that too much. At the end of the day we have to go out there and play and prove that. We have our goals as a team and I believe we’re only getting better, and we’re one of the youngest groups. We have a lot of great things ahead of us. We just have to stay focused, keep getting better with each day and the results will come.
Mavs.com: In the six regular season games that you played in the bubble you averaged 30.5 points and 8.8 rebounds, and you also averaged 23.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in the three playoff games that you played. Was that your best basketball of the season?
Porzingis: I believe so. I finally got in a pretty good rhythm. Me and Luka were playing really well together, and also with the other teammates. I think we were just slowly coming together with the way we were playing, and we were in rhythm and I felt good out there. That’s why (it feels terrible) that there was a setback like this. But I feel like it’s just a small, small bump in the road. I’ll bounce back from this in no time and I believe I’ll be able to pick that rhythm up right where I left off.
Mavs.com: There was a 13-game stretch from Jan. 31-Mar. 6 where you averaged 26.8 points and 11 rebounds. Was that about the time where you put the ACL surgery in your rearview mirror?
Porzingis: I think it just took me time. I wouldn’t say it was one moment that it happened. I was kind of with each game just feeling a bit more comfortable. And slowly it was all coming together. From the ACL injury I could tell at first that it was going to take me a little bit of time to feel good on the court. It felt different after you have such a big surgery and a long rehab like that. As the season went on, I just felt more and more comfortable, and it showed on the court.
Mavs.com: I heard your basketball career jumpstarted when an agent from Latvia sent film of you to teams in Spain and Italy, and that Balconcesto Sevilla gave you a contract in 2010 when you were just 14 years old. How surprised where you that all of that took place when you were so young?
Porzingis: It was a weird time. I was a teenager – 14 years old. I kind of knew that for me to be able to keep growing as a basketball player it was important for me to look at different opportunities where I could play basketball and have a high level of competition. A person that was working as an agent at that time filmed some of my games and sent it out to different teams in Europe, and one of the teams that wanted to take a look at me in person was Sevilla. I remember at 14 years old, I went there and did a tryout, showed them what I was capable of at that age and they saw potential in me and that’s how it started. They offered me a contract. At that age, you can’t really sign a professional contract or nothing like that, so it was signed by my parents. And when I was 17, I started playing with a professional team. My growth in Spain was pretty fast, and if it wasn’t for that place I don’t know if I would have become the player and the person that I am today. I’ve met a lot of great people, and I’ve made a lot of great memories in Sevilla and Spain. Who knows how my career would have gone f I didn’t go that route?
Mavs.com: Around that time as a teenager, you were suffering from anemia and you had fewer red blood cells than the average person. But you eventually overcame that illness.
Porzingis: I was super skinny at that age. I’m skinny now, but I looked like I was going to break in half almost. Obviously, I moved to a different country, and the food was different. It was a lot of factors I think that went into it. My body just wasn’t able to keep up with all the physical activities that I had to do, and the new environment. I think it was just a lack of strength. I was anemic at the time, and I had no energy. I would run up and down one time on the court and I would just be dead-tired. I couldn’t breathe, my breath was super short. I couldn’t really get my body to sweat. It was a tough time and I didn’t know what was happening because everybody else was fine. And then we found that my iron was super low in Vitamin B. Once we started fixing that problem and I was taking the vitamins and stuff, I felt physically completely different and my personality changed. That was a big game-changer for me and I’m thankful for the people that helped to find that sickness that I had at that moment.
Mavs.com: In closing, describe that experience of playing in the bubble in Orlando where the Mavs were for about 55 days?
Porzingis: It was an interesting experience, but (people) were away from their families, away from their normal lives and stuck in a camp, almost for – I don’t know how long – two or three months. It was a different experience. It was a matter of who can adapt to the situation quicker and make that place home for the next whatever time. And whoever did that better and quicker, I think, was also more successful on all the other things and on the court. We did what we could to feel good out there as a team and obviously it was tough, especially for people with families. But that was an experience that we’re always going to remember for the rest of our lives for sure.
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