Porzingis Addresses Knee Injury: 'Keeping The Door Open' On Mavs Future

Mike Fisher

The Dallas Mavericks announced Friday that Kristaps Porzingis has a meniscus tear in his right knee that he sustained in Game 1 of the Mavericks-Clippers first-round NBA Playoffs series in the Orlando Bubble. The official announcement is that he will miss the remainder of the series.

But that's just the beginning of answers to the many questions that now exist.

"It's super disappointing. Super frustrating,'' said Porzingis on Saturday morning via our Zoom call with the DFW media. "But I learned how to accept that feeling and look forward.''

At the same time, Porzingis is declining to accept the likelihood that he's done for this season.

That, again, is a start. But it's only a start. More questions and answers ...

What is the severity of the tear, and the best- and worst-case scenarios?

Depending on the nature of the tear, KP could require surgery and would not play again this season. But a more mild tear—still painful, still temporarily debilitating and still notable that Porzingis played on the knee and played very productively in Games 2 and 3 before succumbing in the last two games—requires rest and rehab that could take eight weeks.

"I'm not sure (about needing surgery),'' he said. "We're hoping with the injections that I did could help ... It depends on how I'm going to feel in the next few weeks."

Porzingis actually kept asking the medical staff if he could keep trying. But they've shut that down.

Said coach Rick Carlisle: The door is not closed on the entire season if we are able to advance.''

Optimism has value. But a look at the calendar (including NBA Finals starting on Sept. 30) tells you that "out for the series'' can also easily mean "out for the season.''

But obviously, no go for KP in Game 6 (2:30 p.m. Sunday) and should the Mavs, trailing 3-2 in the series, win, he'll also watch Tuesday night's 7:30 CT tip of Game 7.

"If this is the end for my season, it has a bitter end, although I think my year as it went on,'' Porzingis said. "I got into a better rhythm, and I started playing better basketball."

Is it fair to call KP's knee issues "chronic''?

The 7' 3" center has dealt with past injury issues in both knees. The left knee is the one in which Porzingis tore the ACL in February 2018 while with the Knicks, after which a 20-month rehab (and a trade to Dallas) ensued.

That knee is no longer problematic.

But Porzingis also missed 10 consecutive games from Dec. 31 to Jan. 17 with right knee soreness. The Mavs indicated that this issue was simply a recurrence of that issue ... Which, as it turns out, it is not.

It might be more fair to simply term Porzingis as "unlucky'' here. A meniscus tear is a fairly common thing, often simply the result of twisting the knee in just the wrong way. It doesn't have to haunt him forever ... though oftentimes the patient develops arthritis in the knee at a later age.

If surgery is needed, will it work?

That, according to DallasBasketball.com contributor Jeff Stotts, is a virtual certainty—unless there is also underlying cartilage damage that is about more than just the meniscus.

And by the way, the surgery is about a removal of meniscus—again, a fairly common thing.

Can he "change his playing style''?

In terms of the idea that KP should in the future try not to run or jump, nah. The Mavericks just signed him to a $158-million contract knowing about the one knee and believing that he is an unusually talented and critical piece to an eventual championship chase.

But long-term maintenance of his knees? Of his health? Long-term consideration of minutes limits and nights off? An acceptance of his vulnerability to injury, whether it's because he's 7' 3" or it's because of his style of play?

And ... building a roster with all of those issues in mind, meaning prioritizing a backup big who can simulate some of what Porzingis does when he's unavailable?

Those ideas make sense ... without any panic about his future.

Said KP: "I can't be worried about that. These things happen. What I can do is focus on the work I put on to avoid (negatives).''

What will Dallas miss?

This has been KP's first NBA Playoffs experience. The 25-year-old Porzingis has averaged 23.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in 31.3 minutes a game while shooting 52% from the field and 52% on 3s.

And for the year: 20.4 points, 9.5 rebounds 1.8 assists and two blocks—with his rebounds and assists averages representing career-highs.

Coach Rick Carlisle said before Game 5 that Porzingis “desperately wants to play,'' adding that if he can't participate, "it’s going to be because he’s unable to, not just simply because it’s sore. He’s played with things that are sore all year, and he’s a tough guy.”

A disservice had been done to Porzingis in some quarters because the Mavs originally spoke of the knee problem as being "soreness.'' Yes, it was "soreness''—because he had a meniscus tear.

The Mavericks in the bubble will miss his unique on-floor partnership with the majestic Luka Doncic. They will miss his Unicorn production. And yes, they will miss Kristaps Porzingis' "toughness.''

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