DALLAS — Dallas Mavericks power forward Kristaps Porzingis said he feels “probably better than I ever have in my life” and will have no limitations entering training camp, almost 20 months after he tore the ACL in his left knee in the last NBA game that he played.
Porzingis, the 7-foot-3 All-Star who the Mavs acquired in a blockbuster deal with the New York Knicks before last season’s trade deadline, bulked up to a personal-high 242 pounds over the summer. Teammates raves about the explosiveness displayed by Porzingis in recent pickup games.
“I feel great physically. I feel 100%. I feel probably better than I ever have in my life,” Porzingis told ESPN.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been out, but I’ve been putting in work throughout this rehab process. I’m extremely excited to be back on the court and to remind everybody what I’m capable of doing.”
Porzingis has been medically cleared for full basketball activities for several months. He practiced with the Mavs late last season, but Porzingis and the team mutually agreed that it was in his best interests long term to continue prioritizing strength and conditioning work instead of playing in the final 10 or 15 games of the season.
Dallas will continue to take a long-term, cautious approach with Porzingis, who re-signed with the Mavs this summer on a five-year, $148 million maximum contract, although details of his load management program have yet to be finalized.
“If I had a gun to my head, I would say that there’s a good chance that we will be very careful on back-to-backs, particularly to start the year,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “But I don’t know for sure. I don’t know how he’s going to be feeling at that point. He may be insisting on playing, but I do believe in his case and in the case of any player like that, the Mavericks or whatever team is going to err on the side of caution.”
The Mavs believe Porzingis and 20-year-old Luka Doncic, last season’s Rookie of the Year, can eventually be the pillars of a contender. They have been frequently compared, by those inside and outside the organization, as a larger version of the Dirk Nowitzki-Steve Nash duo that played such a critical role in the franchise’s revival in the 2000s.
“It could be a nightmare for the teams going forward,” said Porzingis, who averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in his final season with the Knicks before suffering the knee injury in early February. “We just have to develop that chemistry on the floor.”
The hope is that Porzingis and Doncic can lead the Mavs back to the playoffs this season, which would end a three-year drought.
“He’s an amazing player, great talent, hard worker,” Doncic said. “We have him, me and a lot of great players on this team, so that’s why I want to make the playoffs and I hope we do.”