All signs point to Kristaps Porzingis already being happier with Dallas.
All season Porzingis didn’t travel with the Knicks on the road and the front office claimed he stopped attending practices toward the end of his tenure. But with the Mavericks, Porzingis is clearly more comfortable.
“He is traveling with us, he’s involved in practice,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said before his team was dismantled, 127-99, by the Nets on Monday night in Brooklyn. “He’s vocal in huddles and stuff during the game, which is great. Categorically, 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.”
Porzingis will not play this season as he rehabs from ACL surgery, according to Carlisle, and it’s “doubtful” he’ll even practice. Sources said he’s been medically cleared to play but wants to use more time off to strengthen in a way that prevents future injuries.
The Mavericks have fully embraced Porzingis’ plan for rehab, allowing the Latvian’s personal medical team to be part of the process. Porzingis’ physiotherapist, Manolo Valdivjeso, traveled with him to Dallas.
He also has a personal doctor – Carlon Colker – who is based in Greenwich, CT.
“They had a plan in place and we’re helping them facilitate executing their plan,” Carlisle said. “And I know our trainers – our strength trainers and medicals – are adding value to that. So, it’s a win-win as far as I can see.”
Asked about the importance of Porzingis traveling after he didn’t with the Knicks, Carlisle shot back, “Let’s not get into a back-and-forth about what happened before,” he said. “We do things the way we do things and he’s very much involved. That’s all I can tell you.”
Knicks team president Steve Mills got the opposite impression. After months and months of claiming Porzingis was fully on board with his plan, Mills dealt him to the Mavericks for cap space and two first-round picks because, “It’s just a feeling you get as you’re watching how frequently he comes to practices, how long he’s around the gym, different things that he’s doing,” Mills said.
“We just started to feel that this might be moving in a different direction.”
Porzingis requested a trade on Jan. 31 but the Knicks had been shopping him for weeks. It’s clear the Mavericks feel New York’s loss is their gain.
“What I’ve learned about him is he’s a tremendous talent, that’s obvious. He’s a great kid,” Carlisle said. “He’s meticulous in how he approaches things. Very detailed. Extremely hardworking and organized in everything he does. Those are all the traits of somebody who has the ability to be tremendously great. So the No. 1 thing right now is his health. Getting him back 100 percent. Which will happen. In the meantime, he’s picked up his workouts. He’s doing more aggressive one-on-one’s, controlled banging type stuff with some of our assistants. And he’s making great progress.”