DALLAS - “I missed basketball.” Just three words. But all things considered, about as powerful and as poignant a trio of words that can be uttered, if the listener is a Dallas Mavericks fan and if the speaker is Kristaps Porzingis.
Sunday’s Fan Jam allowed Mavs followers our best view yet of The Unicorn in all of his post-Knicks glory. The experience did not work in New York, and all parties involved have a hand in the blame. But the February blockbuster trade that brought the 24-year-old All-Star to DFW granted him one level of "freedom.''
Actually getting on the court this month - for training camp with Mavs teammates with whom he's about to roll, and for Sunday's Fan Jam which allowed him to mingle with MFFLs - is yet another higher level.
“I always want to be aggressive and showcase what I’m capable, stretching the floor with my height and being dangerous in a lot of situations,” Porzingis said after the Sunday scrimmage. “I missed basketball. I miss competing so much. Hopefully, I can start the season the right way and showcase right away what I’m capable of.”
The NBA regular season remains more than two weeks away. But after 19 months away from the court due to a rehab of a knee and a rebuild of his once scrawny frame (see "Bigger, Bolder, Better''), KP is ready to take the stage again, with another step-up: the start of the preseason.
(UPDATE: Coach Rick Carlisle didn't play Porzingis in Tuesday's preseason-opening 119-104 loss to the Thunder at Tulsa; he will debut, as will Luka Doncic, on Wednesday at Detroit.)
Porzingis is obviously champing at the bit to replicate the sort of things that happened in the scrimmage, which he opened with a pick-and-pop jumper off the assist from Luka Doncic to ignite his own 10-point flurry.
“He’s a terrific offensive player,” Carlisle said. “And it’s obvious he’s worked extremely hard to get him back to this point. It’s got to be exciting to get out there for the first time in a long time in front of a crowd in an NBA arena.''
What KP will also return to doing in NBA arenas: Serving as a threat as a defensive player, specifically as a shot-blocker. That happened at Fan Jam as well ... (as did some other cool stuff) ...
Porzingis' issues in New York are well-documented; it wasn't a fit. Here, he seems intent on creating a DFW experience more to everyone's liking.
“I just want to connect with the people here,” he said in explaining why he followed the Fan Jam by climbing up into the AAC audience of 8,500 to sign autographs and pose for pictures. “It’s a new place for me. People don’t really know me. Obviously, I want my playing to talk by itself. But I also want to connect with the fans. I love doing it. It puts a smile on my face when I see all these kids asking for pictures and autographs.
“From the places I’ve lived,'' Porzingis added, "I think Dallas probably has the nicest people,”
Whereas Porzingis says he "missed basketball,'' the "nice fans'' in DFW can counter by saying we've "missed competitive basketball.'' In a poignant and powerful way, Kristaps Porzingis seems intent on changing that.