Patient Porzingis on sitting — ‘It’s very, very tough’


SAN FRANCISCO — For Kristaps Porzingis, the most difficult part of sticking to the plan for his comeback comes when he steps into his closet before heading to the arena for Dallas Mavericks games.

“Oh my god, that’s the hardest thing for me to wake up on game days, go through shootaround with the team and then have to pick a suit to wear for the game,” Porzingis told ESPN in his first sit-down interview since the New York Knicks traded him to Dallas in early February. “I’m like, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ It’s the toughest thing for me. I hate my suits. Not that I hate the suits, but I hate picking them for the game day.

“It’s so weird that I’m not able to — I am able to, but I’m not playing yet. It’s the game day, and I feel like it’s the game day, but you just pick a suit and you wear it and you’re there. And I try to be in the moment when I’m there with the team and help as much as I can without being able to be on the floor, but it’s very, very, very tough. Tougher than I expected.”

Porzingis has fully recovered from the torn ACL in his left knee suffered on Feb. 6, 2018 and has resumed full basketball activities with the exception of playing in games. He said he feels great mentally and physically and has better athletic-test results — more power generated, more explosiveness, better lateral movement — than he did before suffering the injury.

However, Porzingis will not play until next season, following the plan he agreed to over a year ago in consultation with his most trusted advisors — including his older brother and agent, Janis Porzingis, and physical therapist, Manolo Valdivieso.

The thought process is for Porzingis, 23, an All-Star last season, to spend a full year focusing on working on his body and biomechanics to maximize his potential to have a long, healthy career.

The Mavs readily accepted the plan after trading for Porzingis and added Valdivieso to their staff to work in consultation with head athletic trainer Casey Smith and director of athletic performance Jeremy Holsopple. Porzingis said he is “grateful” for how smooth the Mavs have made his transition to a new team.

Porzingis, who participated in a full 5-on-5 practice for the first time with the Mavs on March 13, admits that his patience occasionally wears thin but believes the cautious process is in his best long-term interests.

“I’m not going to rush anything,” Porzingis said. “Of course I want to play. Three months out of the surgery, I was like, ‘I think I can start playing maybe.’ It’s been on my mind the whole time.

“I’m really proud of myself for staying this patient with the knee and taking my time. There hasn’t been a lot of cases of a 7-(foot-)3 guy tearing his ACL. The good thing about the injury is it was a contact injury. If it was not a contact injury, that would be much more dangerous for me. But it was a contact injury. That means my body mechanics are fine. Now what I’ve been doing is just getting better with them. I’ll keep doing that the whole summer, keep working on my body, keep strengthening my joints, my knees, my ankles, my posture, everything.

“I can feel the progress already, so it excites me even more. It makes me even more eager to be out there on the floor. But I’m going to stick to what I have to stick to, stay patient, and when I’m back, I’m going to be back to 110 percent. At this point, I’ve matured a lot. I’m like, ‘This is the decision I have in my mind, and it’s the right decision.’ I don’t feel the same way every day, but I stick to it.”

Due to the team’s schedule, Porzingis has participated in only one full practice with the Mavs. He said he “can’t wait for the next practice,” having slowly ramped up from playing one-on-one to being cleared for full scrimmage work. Coach Rick Carlisle has described Porzingis’ performance in that practice as “spectacular.”

“Everything has been super positive,” Carlisle said. “He’s a wonderful guy who is very serious about the game, very serious about being a great player and obviously wants to win. We understood when the trade happened that him playing this year was very unlikely. The most important thing is the health of a player of that caliber. We’re all thrilled with how it’s gone and the direction it continues to go.”

Porzingis doubts he could have stomached sitting out the entire season if the Mavs were contending for a playoff spot, but that isn’t an issue, with the 29-44 Mavs already eliminated.

Porzingis, who will be a restricted free agent the Mavs plan to sign to a five-year, $158 million maximum contract this summer, is preparing to help Dallas end a three-year playoff drought next season.

“For me, personally, the goal is to take that first step at least and make the playoffs,” Porzingis said. “I want to experience that. I want to get that first feel. I understand that we’re not going to win a championship in one year, but that is the end goal. But in my mind, we have to take that first step: make the playoffs, see how far we can get in the playoffs, get that first experience, get that first taste. Then take the next step and make the right moves towards that next step.”

Porzingis said he plans to be active in recruiting free agents to sign with the Mavs, who created the salary-cap space to be aggressive shoppers this summer by trading forward Harrison Barnes to the Kings soon after dealing for Porzingis.

Porzingis, who expects to play center and power forward for the Mavs depending on matchups, has spent significant time thinking about which free agents would fit best with him and fellow young franchise cornerstone Luka Doncic. Porzingis also frequently visualizes what it will like playing with 20-year-old Rookie of the Year front-runner Doncic, believing the young Euro’s two-man game “is going to be really hard to guard, honestly.”

“My end goal is to be able to win a championship,” Porzingis said. “That is what is on my mind, so I just want to be in a place where everything is done towards making that possible and there’s no other stuff, no other distractions. I need more time, honestly, but I believe this can be the place.”



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