Kristaps Porzingis returned to New York for the first time since the blockbuster NBA trade deadline deal that sent him from the Knicks to the Mavericks. Although Porzingis is traveling with the Mavs and working out with their trainers and coaching staff as he continues his recovery from reconstructive knee surgery, the 7-3 forward adopted a low profile before the Mavs played the Nets on Monday night at Barclays Center, declining to speak with reporters.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said Porzingis, who will be a restricted free agent on July 1, has adapted well to his new environment. “He’s doing a lot of stuff behind the scenes,” Carlisle said. “He’s a tremendous talent. That’s obvious. He’s a great kid. He is meticulous in how he approaches things, very detailed, extremely hard-working and organized with everything he does. Those are all the traits of a guy that has a chance to be tremendously great.
“The No. 1 thing right now is his health, getting him back 100 percent, which will happen. But in the meantime, he’s picked up his workouts. He’s doing more aggressive, controlled banging-type stuff with some of our assistants, and he’s making great progress.”
When asked if Porzingis would have been able to play this season if the Mavs were in playoff contention, Carlisle said, “He’s not playing this year. The plan was always for him not to play. That’s all I can tell you.”
He was referring to the plan Porzingis and his brother and agent Janis put in place for his comeback. “They had a plan in place, and we’re helping facilitate them executing their plan,” Carlisle said. “I know our trainers, strength coaches and medical [staff] are adding value to it. It’s a win-win as far as I can see.”
The fact that Porzingis is traveling with the Mavericks, which he didn’t do with the Knicks, suggests he is integrating into the organization. Carlisle said it’s doubtful that Porzingis actually will practice with the Mavs, but he added, “He’s involved in practice. He’s vocal in huddles during games, which is great. He appears to me to be a leader, which is something you can’t have enough of. All the signs point in a really great direction.”
When he joined the Mavs, Porzingis already knew rookie of the year candidate Luka Doncic from international competition. That relationship is vital if Dallas expects to sign Porzingis long-term.
“They get along great,” Carlisle said. “I see that as another positive situation. They listen to a lot of the same music in Spanish. There’s familiarity there.”