As the postseason hopes for the Dallas Mavericks have continued to fade in recent weeks, there was an equally uplifting storyline beginning on Wednesday afternoon.
Kristaps Porzingis, whom the Mavs acquired in a blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks in early February, went through his first five-on-five practice. Porzingis has not been on the court in 13 months, when he suffered a torn left ACL in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 6, 2018 (while he was still with the Knicks).
Wednesday marked Porzingis' first full-scale practice since his ACL surgery and said overall he felt fantastic after the practice, per Dwain Price of Mavs.com.
“That’s not how we planned it,” Porzingis said. “It’s just the progression that we had. I could have been on the court way earlier than this.
“But we really took our time, we really stayed patient, I stayed really patient. I’m proud of myself for staying that patient. But now it’s here, I’m excited and I can’t wait for the next practice.”
The Mavs had hopes of making a playoff run this season after a 15-11 start. Since then, though, the team has faltered greatly and enters tonight's road game against the Denver Nuggets (10:30 ET, TNT) at 27-40 and in 14th place in the Western Conference.
Practically from the date Dallas acquired Porzingis, there has been no talk of him suiting up this season. His participation in practice, however, gives Dallas hope for a future built around Porzingis, star rookie Luka Doncic and whomever the team adds this summer via trades, free agency and the Draft.
Coach Rick Carlisle told Mavs.com he can't help but think about the ways a healthy Porzingis could help the Mavs next season.
“He went through a full practice with no issues, so very encouraging,” Carlisle said. “He’s made tremendous progress with his rehab, with his conditioning, his strength, and (playing 5-on-5 basketball) was the next logical progression.
“He played 3-on-3 yesterday morning with some of the other guys and did extremely well there. So this went really well.”
For Porzingis, just getting back on the court and reaching a goal he had in mind for himself is a measure of success.
“I’ve visualized a lot and I see myself playing, so this whole time I’m always thinking in my head ‘I don’t want to come back and be rusty,’ “ Porzingis said. “I want to be in the game right away.
“I missed the shots today, but I felt good on the court, I felt comfortable, I felt fluid and I think that’s important. The shots will start falling and the more we play, the more I play. It’s good to finally be able to do something physical, so I’m happy.”
Porzingis, who will become a restricted free agent this summer, reportedly plans to sign the qualifying offer with Dallas, which would set the stage for him to become an unrestricted free agent in 2020.
The former No. 4 overall pick of the 2015 Draft, Porzings was named an All-Star in 2017-18, but his ACL injury occurred days after that and he never got to play in that game.
The 7-foot-3 Porzingis, who was the No. 4 overall pick of the 2015 Draft, averaged 17.8 points and 7.1 rebounds in 2017-18 with the Knicks. He was expected to be the Knicks' franchise player for years. But they declined to give him a contract extension before this season - they say he was in agreement with that decision - and traded him, Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke and Courtney Lee to the Mavs on February 1.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.