Atlantic Notes: Porzingis, McHale, Harden, Morey, Raptors

Kristaps Porzingis‘ plantar fasciitis recovery, though not season-ending, is going to be an extensive process that requires planning by the Celtics, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes. Porzingis’ injury will sideline him for the entirety of the 2023 FIBA World Cup, and he’ll be out of commission for at least four-to-six weeks.

The Celtics are no stranger to serious injuries taking place during international play. Just last season, Boston lost Danilo Gallinari for the whole year after he tore his ACL in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers. The Italian forward never ended up suiting up for the Celtics. Thankfully, in Porzingis’ case, the Celtics are hopeful history won’t repeat itself.

Weiss writes that the next steps for Porzingis include gearing up for the start of training camp, which his injury timeline syncs up with, and playing in Boston’s preseason games. Even though the timeline seems to work out well for Boston and Porzingis, there is still some cause for concern, Weiss opines.

The Celtics didn’t play Al Horford or Robert Williams on back-to-backs last season, but it would be hard to replicate that system with Porzingis unless Williams is ready to play every night. Boston’s approach to Porzingis’ injury goes beyond simply when he plays, but also how the Celtics are able to utilize him on offense and defense. Having Porzingis drop on pick-and-rolls on defense and allowing him to be a spot-up shooter on offense could prevent the 7’3″ Porzingis from suffering further injuries, Weiss writes.

The Celtics traded long-time rotation piece Marcus Smart to bring in Porzingis, a move with an eye toward raising their floor. According to Weiss, Porzingis should be viewed as a franchise cornerstone and his injury is nothing to take lightly.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • In an interview with Heavy Sports’ Steve Bulpett, former Rockets head coach Kevin McHale offered his perspective on the fallout between the SixersJames Harden and Daryl Morey. McHale coached Harden and worked under Morey at the same time between 2012 and 2015 and gave unique insight into the situation. “James wanted a big extension from Philly, and Philly wouldn’t give it to him, and that’s not a Daryl decision,” Morey said. “Daryl’s got a part of that, of course, but that’s an owner decision. So (Harden) was really mad, saying Daryl lied to him, but, you know, maybe they saw Game 7 against the Celtics (9 points on 3-for-11 shooting in a 24-point loss) and said, ‘I’m not interested in that.’” McHale went on to discuss numerous aspects regarding the situation, including how it impacts Joel Embiid and Nick Nurse, as well as detailing his own experiences with coaching Harden. I recommend reading the interview in full, as McHale delves deep into his personal dealings with both members of the fallout.
  • Weiss also offered his perspective on the situation regarding Harden and Morey, juxtaposing the Sixers and the Celtics. Harden marks the latest player to want out of Philadelphia, joining the likes of Markelle Fultz, Horford and Ben Simmons before him. The Celtics haven’t been faced with such issues in a while, but Weiss writes that they have their own problems to take care of. Malcolm Brogdon and then Smart both felt blindsided by the Porzingis trade, Weiss writes, and general manager Brad Stevens needs to make sure he doesn’t lose his locker room after such incidents.
  • The Raptors have the fewest U.S. nationally televised games in the NBA in the 2023/24 season. Toronto has one TNT game and three NBA TV games. This upcoming season marks the fewest U.S. nationally televised games the Raptors have had in a decade, since the start of the Masai Ujiri era, per Josh Lewenberg of (Twitter link).
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