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It took more than a full calendar year, but Kristaps Porzingis finally went through his first five-on-five practice with the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.
Exactly 13 months after having surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, the 7-foot-3 Latvian star came out of the practice feeling “great,” according to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News.
“It’s been a long road,” Porzingis said. “It’s like walking in the desert this whole time. You’re just working, working and you don’t know what the end result is going to be like.
“But now that I’m coming closer to playing and I’m already doing 5-on-5 scrimmaging, I get some taste of what it’s going to be like when I finally step back on the court and compete.”
Does that mean the 23-year-old could actually play in games this season? He last played in an NBA game Feb. 6, 2018 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
“No,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told Townsend in a one-word response via email.
Considering Dallas is 27-40 this season and has lost six consecutive games heading into a game at Denver (44-22) on Thursday night, Cuban’s response seems prudent.
Porzingis, acquired from the New York Knicks earlier this season, is eligible to receive a five-year, $158 million contract offer July 1. Jeopardizing his recovery to play in any of the Mavericks’ 15 remaining games is not a good idea.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said the Mavericks’ training staff didn’t put any restrictions on Porzingis during the five-on-five session with his teammates and he came away impressed with what he saw in the young big man.
“Many, many, many encouraging signs here,” Carlisle said. “Days like today are extremely important. The impact that he had in practice was high. His length. Not only does he score the ball, but he moves and passes and can make plays. He was involved in a lot of things out there.”
Porzingis is feeling upbeat in regard to his rehabilitation.
“I definitely feel better than before,” he said, offering a comparison to how he felt physically before the injury. “The way I move, the way I run, the way I jump, everything just feels more fluid.”
Unlike the vast majority of athletes attempting to come back from a torn ACL, Porzingis doesn’t feel that is the case with him, saying, “But for me, since I’ve been doing contact work, I haven’t even been thinking about the knee. I don’t really feel it.”