Kristaps Porzingis was a couple of weeks away from playing in his first NBA All-Star Game when he tore his left ACL. The Knicks franchise player vowed he will return to that level at least.
“I believe that I’m going to come back better and stronger,” Porzingis said Tuesday.
Porzingis couldn’t say when that would be as he refused to put a timetable on his return from the devastating injury. But he’s already dreaming of that moment.
In his first public comments since his season ended on Feb. 6, Porzingis said “it’s pretty far off to put a timetable out there.” But four weeks out of surgery, Porzingis is walking without crutches. He said his rehab is going well, he has a positive mindset, and he’s also begun working on his upper-body strength.
“I’m thinking every day about the day I come back and start playing again,” Porzingis said before the Knicks played the Mavericks. “That’s going to be the most positive moment. I’m going day by day and I’m seeing that light at the end of the tunnel — when I’m going to be back, when I’m going to be playing and enjoying the game I love so much.”
His age, Porzingis is only 22, could help his recovery. Neither Porzingis, nor the Knicks will rush his return. A general timeframe in recent years for players with this injury is 10-14 months. But none of those players was 7-3.
“More or less following the protocol,” said Porzingis, who averaged 22.6 points and an NBA-leading 2.40 blocks this season. “For everybody, it’s individual, how you move forward. We don’t want to force anything. We’re going day by day of how I’m feeling. Every day we’re adding some more stuff I can do. More mobility.”
Porzingis suffered the injury after landing awkwardly following a dunk on Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo at Madison Square Garden last month.
He laid on the court and slapped it a few times before being helped up and assisted to the locker room. Porzingis said he was “shocked” that he tore his ACL. He said he didn’t “feel a pop” and initially he thought it was a sprain and he was hoping to re-enter the game.
“I started walking a little bit, felt better with every step,” Porzingis said. “Once I got to the locker room, I was like, ‘Can I get back in the game?’ I almost felt that good. I guess the doctors already had a bad feeling about it. Took me to the hospital. Then I got the bad news.”
After hearing the news, Porzingis said he quickly started thinking about what he needed to do to get ready physically and mentally for his long road back.
“I couldn’t believe that it happened to me,” Porzingis said. “And then about 30 seconds later I said, ‘OK what can I do now? Now it’s just time for me to make a comeback and focus on the next thing, and that was prepare myself for the surgery.
“As soon as it happened it was something unexpected but there was no going back. I changed my mindset, positive mindset and started working.”
Porzingis should benefit from his positive outlook. He said he has spoken to his San Antonio’s Davis Bertans, his teammate on the Latvian national squad, and Knicks point guard Jarrett Jack about returning from a torn ACL.
“I believe that things happen for a reason,” Porzingis said. “If it had to happen, it happened now and I’m going to be able to use these last two months of the season and the whole offseason to work my body. Not only just getting bigger and stronger but just my movement, my body, the way my body moves and all those things. That’s going to be big for me also because of how long I am and things like that.
“I don’t know how many months I have, I’m going to use it as efficiently as I can to come back better, to come back as a better player.”
The Knicks made it official, and signed forward Troy Williams, whose second 10-day contract expired Monday. He’s signed for the remainder of this season and will get a partial guarantee for next year.