BOSTON – Day 1 of Celtics training camp left Kristaps Porzingis feeling excited and motivated for what is to come.
The 7-foot-3 power forward/center spoke with the media in between Monday afternoon’s practice sessions and conveyed nothing but positive observations from the first organized practice with his new teammates.
“I think the interesting part is seeing the dynamic when adding some players and playing with the new players and how quickly we're going to be able to play off each other, read each other's minds, so it can just be seamless. So we look forward to that,” said Porzingis as he towered over a throng of reporters. “It’s still the first day, and the more time on the floor we get together, the better we'll look and the more rhythm we'll have.”
Porzingis has been through this process a few times already. It’s his fourth “first day” with a new NBA team, having made previous stops in New York, Dallas, and Washington. So he knows there’s an acclimation process for which a high level of patience is needed.
“We have to be in the moment and get the most out of today, tomorrow, and go day-by-day,” he said. “So far, the transition has been a smooth process.”
It was so important for Porzingis to be a part of the process right from Day 1 that he sat out of the FIBA World Cup as a precautionary measure after dealing with a minor case of plantar fasciitis in his right foot. It was an injury that he may have been able to push through, but he wanted to make sure he’d be fully healthy by the time training camp opened in Boston.
“The smart decision was for me to sit out and make sure the foot gets to recover before I start the season, and that’s what I did,” said Porzingis, who cheered on his fellow Latvian countrymen from the sideline. “It was a tough decision. I know it may not seem like it was such a big deal, but it was a big deal for me not to be able to play for my country in the World Cup. It really hurt my soul. But I knew it was the right decision and I’m glad I made the tough decision in that moment, and now I’m 100 percent to start the season.”
Porzingis is coming off his best NBA season after averaging career highs of 23.2 points per game on 49.8 percent shooting along with 8.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game. Not only did he continue to be an elite shooter, but he was also the No. 1 post scorer in the league last season, which is an area of his game that he’s worked extensively on over the last few seasons and believes will be a great addition to Boston’s offense.
“When I was in Dallas, I looked at my numbers and my post-ups, the situations I was in, and kind of analyzed and I had like a reality check and realized that I needed to get better. I needed to get better to be able to use that part of my game at a good level. And that's what I did,” he explained. “I looked at the things I was not as efficient with, the things where I was more efficient, and then just constantly kept working on it and developed that post game. And last season was a good example of doing the things I needed to do and then, as the year went on, I think I got more and more effective. So I look forward to replicating that here also and being able to open things up for my teammates playing in the post.”
In particular, Porzingis believes that his post presence will open even more scoring opportunities for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who were by far the best scoring duo in the league last season.
“It’s just gonna be a matter of time before we find our rhythm on the court,” he said of playing alongside the Jays. “I think my game is going to complement their game so much. I’m going to try to open things up for them and I know that’s what’s going to make my game much easier. I’m looking forward to that.”
More than anything, Porzingis is looking forward to finally playing for a contender. He understands that on a team like this, there is no room for egos; it’s all about having an unwavering team-first mindset, which he has embraced since the day he was traded to Boston.
“It’s very motivating, very exciting, of course, and also a big responsibility,” Porzingis said of playing for a team with championship aspirations. “We all understand what our goal is, and we don't want to only have that in our mind. As Coach (Joe Mazzulla) said in our first meeting, we have to live that lifestyle. We have to live that life day to day. We have to put in the work and at the end, if we put in the work, we'll achieve the results. There has to be a daily focus and keeping that big goal in our minds.”
One day down, one day closer to reaching that goal.