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Kristaps Porzingis Ready For NBA Restart, Thinks Mavericks Will ‘Surprise People’

Former All-Star Kristaps Porzingis’ thought about little else other than getting back on the court as he quarantined in his native Latvia. The Dallas Mavericks’ center was on a tear before the NBA suspended its season on March 11 due to the coronavirus. So, when the time came to suit up again, he embraced it.

“I knew we had the opportunity to play and the NBA was able to put it all together where it was safe for everybody,” Porzingis said in a Friday Zoom interview. “There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to play and help the team. So, [sitting out] was never really a consideration on my part. I was just hoping we would get back to it and finish the season that we started.”

When the NBA began its hiatus, Porzingis was averaging 24.5 points on 45.4% shooting, 10.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.4 blocks since the beginning of February. He was also connecting on 36.7% of this three-point attempts and looking every bit of the player the Mavericks thought he would be when they signed him to a five-year, $158 million maximum contract in June 2019. That wasn’t always the case.

The season started off slowly for Porzingis. When he came to Dallas as park of a blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks in January 2019, he was still recovering from a torn ACL. This season marked the first time that he saw game action in nearly two years. As such, the Mavericks handled his return delicately, requiring him to sit out games for load management. Thanks to coronavirus shutting down the league, he’s had more time to distance himself from the injury and make progress on some of the more intangible parts of his game.

“As the season went on, my knee was pretty much back to normal,” Porzingis said. “It was just a matter of me getting back into rhythm, getting that feel for the game, that touch around the rim. Little things like that. I feel like now, the extra time that we had to put in the individual work and get a lot of shots up and keep working on my game, I feel really comfortable on the court and into my rhythm and into the feel of the game.” 

It’s not just regaining his rhythm that Porzingis worked on during his time away while training in Latvia. He also added a few new elements of his game. So far, though, he’s being coy about what specifically he worked on.

“I can’t talk about it,” he said. “I’ll show you on the court.”

Fans won’t have to wait long to see the new wrinkles in his game. Dallas flies to Orlando, Florida, where the NBA will carry out the rest of its regular-season, housing 22 teams and their personnel at the Walt Disney World Resort, on July 8 and begins their training camp-like regimen shortly thereafter. The Mavericks play their first game on July 31. They’ll face the Houston Rockets.

This is where Porzingis’ sights are set. When play resumes, the Mavericks will still be the seventh seed in a tough Western Conference. They’re seven games up on the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies, putting them squarely in the playoff picture. However, looking up at their possible first-round opponents might be unnerving. The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers sit at the top of the conference. Porzingis, though, isn’t worried about a potential matchup with either team from L.A.

“We want to win the most games we can,” Porzingis said. “We’re not really looking to avoid anybody. Obviously, those are going to be tough matchups, but we want to do the best we can and then we’ll see where we end up and then we’ll go from there. We don’t want to try to go to far ahead. I think all of our mindsets are that we’re a dangerous team and I think we can surprise people.”

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