Kristaps Porzingis was sitting on the bench at Barclays Center on Monday night watching his new teammates absorb a 127-88 loss to the Nets. The former Knick isn’t going to be doing much else anytime soon. Seldom has a guy who wasn’t in uniform caused such a fuss.
Porzingis looked good in a purple shirt, gray suit and Gucci loafers. How he looks in a Mavericks uniform won’t be known until next season when he takes the court again.
“He’s a franchise-type talent,” Mavericks veteran Dirk Nowitzki said of Porzingis. “Him and Luka [Doncic] will hopefully play off each other for a long, long time and have a great career together.”
Nowitzki’s 20-year career is coming to end, which is why Barclays Center showered him with a standing ovation in the final minutes of the blowout. The Mavs future belongs to Porzingis, whose new life in Dallas seems to be going quite nicely according to Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.
“He’s doing a lot of stuff behind the scenes,” Carlisle said before the game. “What I’ve learned about him is he’s a tremendous talent; he’s a great kid; he’s meticulous in how he approaches things. He’s very detailed and extremely hard-working and organized with everything he does. Those are all the traits of a guy who has a chance to be tremendously great.”
The Knicks also thought Porzingis had a chance to be tremendously great until the 7-foot-3 jump-shooter from Latvia tore his left ACL a year ago and didn’t play this season before apparently informing the Knicks he didn’t want to be part of their long-term future. The fourth-overall pick in the 2015 draft was subsequently traded to the Mavericks on Jan. 31 along with Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee for two future first-round picks and DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and Dennis Smith Jr.
Hardaway said he learned of the trade through his agent.
“I didn’t find out from them at all,” Hardaway said, referring to the Knicks front office. “It goes to show.”
Hardaway, who had seven points Monday night, later heard from Knicks coach David Fizdale and let him and other know the trade was premature.
“I let them know what we had was special,” Hardaway said. “I really think they didn’t give us an opportunity to have K.P. come back. It is what it is.”
While the Knicks insist Porzingis forced the trade by indicating he wanted out, Porzingis hasn’t said much and appears to be looking ahead to next season when he’ll be paired with Doncic, the sensational rookie from Slovenia, who scored 16 Monday night. All reports suggest, Porzingis is working hard to strengthen his knee and body.
“The No. 1 thing right now is his health, getting him back 100 percent, which will happen,” Carlisle said. “In the meantime he’s picked up his workouts and doing aggressive one-on-one controlled-banging type stuff with some of our assistants. He’s making great progress.”
While the Knicks initially hoped Porzingis would be ready to play in January or February, the Mavericks say they never intended for him to play this year once he was acquired. The Mavericks seem content to follow the rehab schedule Porzingis and his support team established.
“They had a plan in place and we’re helping them to execute their plan,” Carlisle said. “I know our trainers and medical staff are adding value to it. It’s a win, win.”
Unlike his rehab with the Knicks, Porzingis is traveling with the Mavericks despite not playing. It’s part bonding with his teammates and also a chance for the training staff to keep an eye on his rehabilitation.
“He’s involved in practice,” Carlisle said. “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.”
Perhaps a tremendously great direction.