At the end of a disappointing 2020/21 season, Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis would have liked to be traded, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said during an appearance on Brian Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip to Dan Feldman of NBC Sports). However, according to MacMahon, Porzingis is “coming back optimistic” following a healthy summer and Dallas’ hiring of Jason Kidd as head coach.
“At the end of last year, Porzingis wanted to be traded. My understanding is he feels like he has a fresh start with the coaching change,” MacMahon said, per Feldman. “He’s had the healthy offseason. He has been able to work, not just on his game, but on his body some more. He’s kind of coming back with a refreshed feel.”
Even if the Mavs hadn’t made a coaching change in the spring, MacMahon doesn’t think Porzingis would have come out and asked the team to trade him, recognizing the poor optics of such a move following his up-and-down season. However, it’s not hard to understand why he was frustrated by his role following a first-round playoff loss in which he averaged just 13.1 PPG and 5.4 RPG in seven games (33.3 MPG) and often found himself standing in the corner on offense.
According to MacMahon, Porzingis felt more like an afterthought than a co-star for Luka Doncic under former head coach Rick Carlisle. Kidd visited Porzingis in Latvia over the summer – which the 26-year-old said on Monday was “huge for me” (Twitter link via Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News) – and envisions a more expansive role for the former Knick.
“The simple way to put it is, I want KP to be a basketball player,” Kidd said, adding that he expects Porzingis to start at power forward. “There’s no limitations on just shooting threes. Being able to roll, to be able to shoot the mid-range, to be able to put the ball on the floor — I want him to be who he is, and that’s a basketball player and not just be limited to shooting threes or crashing from the corner. I want him to feel comfortable on the floor in any spot. I think he’s a weapon. He shoots the ball too well not to be able to shoot mid-range shots.”
The Mavs are optimistic that a healthy offseason for Porzingis – who has a history of knee and leg injuries and missed 29 games last season – will position him for a nice bounce-back year in 2021/22, writes MacMahon.
“I think he’s in way better shape this year, especially mentally,” Doncic said of his teammate on Monday. “You can see him having a good time when we’re playing pickup, and I think he’s going to have a great season this year.”