Kristaps Porzingis hasn't been on the floor in a game for the Dallas Mavericks in almost two weeks. Weather cancellations are part of that. "Back tightness'' has recently been a part of it, too.
And now? Trade rumors are a part of the Porzingis story.
“It kind of came out and it is what it is,” Porzingis said on Friday in his first comments about the gossip. “I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. I shouldn’t be too worried about it. It can only distract me about it at the end of the day. I try to focus on being here in the moment, being here day-to-day, putting in the work with my teammates and getting better as a basketball player at the end. That’s it.''
KP can make the gossip go away by accomplishing two things, one of which is within his control. Knee balkiness and back soreness? We're sure he's doing everything he can. Poor play on defense, so poor that some advanced analytics show him to be the least productive defender in the NBA? (See Dalton Trigg's analysis here.)
Yes, the 7-foot-3 Latvian could do something about that.
The Mavs, in public, anyway, have done their part to stem the gossippy tide, owner Mark Cuban telling DallasBasketball.com that the stories of Dallas "gauging'' KP's trade value are false ...
And coach Rick Carlisle adding, “There’s no trade for Porzingis. There’s nothing that’s been explored. I know Mark’s denied it. I’m denying it. He’s a Maverick, we expect him to be here.”
Maybe it would've been helpful for Porzingis himself to say something along those same lines. "I don't know what's going on behind the scenes'' can sound a bit unsettling. But the top issue here is not about trading KP (especially as his value is presently at an all-time low).
The top issue is Porzingis himself returning, as a player, to where he was in the NBA bubble at the end of last season, when, playing alongside Luka Doncic, he may have been the best "superstar sidekick'' in the game.
Maybe that march back begins Saturday, with Dallas at the Nets in a nationally-televised outing. Brooklyn will be without Kevin Durant. Will Dallas "be with'' KP?
“I felt pretty good. I hope I can play (Saturday),” said Porzingis, who in the second year of a five-year, $158 million max contract has played in only 17 of Dallas’ 31 games this season. “It’s always tough to sit out and not be able to play. I just stay focused on the work I need to do to come back as soon as possible and to feel good on the court. That’s most important. When I’m out there, I want to help my team and play at the level I’m capable of.”
Dallas needs his 20 points and eight rebounds (or more), but Dallas needs something else: Health and consistency. And "focus.''
"I’m just focused on playing, playing well, and getting wins again as a team,'' said KP, acknowledging the injury problem by adding, “It’s always frustrating. I haven’t had the best luck in that sense. I’ve had some injuries and I’m fighting through them and I’m coming back and then another little thing happens here and there. It’s been a little bit like that so far.”
Actually, it's been "a lot like that.'' ... and Kristaps Porzingis cannot control all that. But there are things that are within his control. Those things need to start coming into focus - and if they do, the potential distraction of trade rumors will magically disappear.