Kristaps Porzingis

Porzingis, Doncic Starting To ‘Click’ As Teammates

Although injuries have limited their time together on the floor this season, Mavericks All-Stars Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis have started showing signs of becoming an elite duo.

In Dallas’ final game before the All-Star break, Doncic (33 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists) and Porzingis (27 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks) led the team to a blowout win over the Kings. While Doncic has played at an MVP-caliber level when healthy, Porzingis is playing his first season since tearing his ACL as a secondary option.

Despite both players missing some time with injuries, Porzingis says he and his new teammate are starting to mesh together, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon writes.

“Luka’s done a great job communicating to me [about] where I wanna get the ball,” Porzingis said. “He’s also getting used to playing with me and he’s really starting to find me in those spots where I’m comfortable, that midrange area. And slowly these things are starting to click. I think as we keep working, playing together, it’s going to get better and better and better.”

At 33-22, the Mavericks are the current seventh seed in the Western Conference. A lot of that success has hinged – and will continue to hinge – on the health of Doncic and Porzingis. As MacMahon noted, after an inconsistent 10-game stretch to start the season, the Mavericks have been a scoring force when both of their young stars have shared the court. Moving forward, Doncic feels things will only improve.

“It’s great that we both had those nights,” Doncic said. “We’ve got to keep working, and we’re going to get better and better.”

Mavericks Notes: MKG, RHJ, Porzingis, Broekhoff

The Mavericks are talking about trading for a combo forward by Thursday’s deadline and have “kicked tires” on both Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the Hornets and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson of the Raptors, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. He adds that discussions are still in the exploratory stage.

Both players have expiring contracts, but it would be much tougher to match salary for Kidd-Gilchrist, who is making $13MM this season. The second pick in the 2012 draft, he has spent his entire career in Charlotte, but his numbers have declined drastically in recent seasons. He has gotten into just 12 games this year and is averaging 4.0 points and 2.9 rebounds per night.

Hollis-Jefferson, who has a $2.5MM salary, has appeared in 38 games for Toronto, averaging 7.6 PPG and 5.0 RPG. He signed a one-year deal with the Raptors as a free agent in July.

There’s more Mavericks news to pass along:

  • Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the franchise-altering trade that brought Kristaps Porzingis from the Knicks, Townsend observes in a full story. Owner Mark Cuban was surprised by how quickly the deal came together, while coach Rick Carlisle says Porzingis has been doing a “great job” in a “transition year” after missing all of last season following a torn ACL in his left knee. After clashing with management in New York, Porzingis is much happier in Dallas. “This organization has treated me incredibly,” he said. “As family. Mark is unbelievable. And everybody who works here, it’s really high-level, high-class. It’s an honor to be part of this.”
  • The Mavericks are considering a stricter load management plan for Porzingis, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. He missed 10 straight games last month with soreness in his right knee.
  • Second-year shooting guard Ryan Broekhoff made the first start of his NBA career last night in Houston, Townsend relays in a separate story. Carlisle said parts of the starting lineup will be filled based on a “game-to-game situation,” but the decision was surprising because it was only Broekhoff’s second game back after being injured on December 29. “I was actually nervous,” he said. “I haven’t been nervous for a game in a long time, maybe since my first NBA game last year in Phoenix. There was a little nervous energy throughout the day. These things, you never know when they might come, so I just tried to put my best foot forward to help the team.”

Mavs Notes: Porzingis, Noah, Powell Replacements, Trade Options

Kristaps Porzingis could see a lot more action at center the remainder of the season, according to Eddie Sefko of the team’s website. The Mavericks need to replace the minutes of Dwight Powell, who is out for the season with a ruptured right Achilles. When paired with Maxi Kleber, Porzingis can play either center or power forward. Porzingis can utilize his playmaking skills from the middle, as he did for a stretch against the Clippers on Tuesday.

“We’ve done it some,” coach Rick Carlisle said while adding, “The bind you get in is with rebounding and that was obvious in the second half. We were really up against it on the boards. … But in terms of the lineup and everything else, there’s a lot of things we’ve got to keep on the table.”

We have more on the Mavericks:

  • The Mavs’ front office has made contact with free agent center Joakim Noah, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. However, the team has concerns about Noah’s health and is also looking at overseas and G League options, MacMahon adds. Noah, 34, appeared in 34 games with the Grizzlies last season. Dallas would have to open up a roster spot to bring in a free agent.
  • Washington’s Ian Mahinmi, Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng and Golden State’s Willie Cauley-Stein and Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson are some of the trade options the team could pursue in the wake of Powell’s injury, Sefko writes in a separate piece.  Rookie Isaiah Roby and Justin Jackson could also pick up some of those minutes, Sefko adds, and the Mavs might pursue another G League option, Ray Spalding, of the Greensboro Swarm, who was on Dallas’ roster for part of last season.
  • Even before Powell’s injury, the team was perusing the trade market for players with size who can score 15 points a game, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (video link). “They have assets. They have a trade exception, they have Courtney Lee, who’s a contract that can be traded. Watch out for them,” Windhorst said.
  • The Mavs have two trade exceptions available to utilize prior to February’s deadline, including one worth over $11.8MM. Check out the list of all trade exceptions here.

Kristaps Porzingis Returns For Mavs

The Mavericks will have Kristaps Porzingis in the lineup for the first time since December 29, as ESPN’s Tim MacMahon passes along on Twitter.

“Porzingis is scheduled to play. He’s looking forward to playing,” head coach Rick Carlisle told the media prior to the Mavs’ tilt against the Clippers.

Porzingis’ knee has kept him on the sideline during the entire month of January. He’s missed 10 games for the club and Dallas has gone 6-4 during his absence.

While there’s no word of an exact minute restriction, Carlisle said that the big man will play shorter stints than he normally would. Porzingis has played in 31 games for the Mavs this season, seeing 31.2 minutes per contest.

Southwest Notes: Anthony, Zion, Porzingis, Brooks

Carmelo Anthony is downplaying tonight’s return to Houston for the first time since last year’s failed experiment, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Anthony signed with the Rockets last summer, but only played 10 games before being pulled from the rotation. He remained on the roster but away from the team for about two months before being traded to Chicago in January.

Although GM Daryl Morey made several attempts over the years to acquire Anthony, once the Rockets landed him they found his mid-range game wasn’t compatible with their preferred offense.

“I honestly don’t have any feelings about going back,” Anthony said. “I was only there a couple weeks. I don’t really have any type of feelings going back.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Now that No. 1 pick Zion Williamson has a target date for his NBA debut, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer examines how New Orleans will use him during the second half of the season. Despite a dismal start, the Pelicans entered the night just four games out of a playoff spot, and O’Connor notes that 14 of their final 15 games will be against teams with losing records. “I’ve heard the narrative that he shouldn’t play at all, but that would be absurd from where he is,” head of basketball operations David Griffin said. “He’s worked this hard because he intends to play basketball and he wants to lead his guys. He’s going to be an alpha as a vocal presence; you can’t be that when you’re not playing basketball.”
  • After initially being listed as available, Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis was a late scratch for tonight’s game at Sacramento, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. It marks the ninth straight game that Porzingis has missed because of soreness in his right knee, combined with an illness that prevented him from working out for a few days. The team is “playing it safe,” MacMahon adds (Twitter link). Dallas is 4-4 so far without him.
  • Dillon Brooks met the starter criteria by starting his 41st game of the season for the Grizzlies last night, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. As a result, his qualifying offer will increase from $2MM to $3.1MM, which will also be the amount of his free agent cap hold.

Southwest Notes: McLemore, Aldridge, Porzingis, DeRozan

Former lottery pick Ben McLemore has revitalized his career with the RocketsESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote an excellent profile piece examining the reemergence of McLemore in Houston.

On his third team in three years, McLemore seized his opportunity with the Rockets when injuries befell Eric Gordon and Gerald Green. McLemore has transformed himself into an effective catch-and-shoot option in Houston. For nine games starting on November 30th, McLemore averaged 14 PPG while shooting 39-of-85 from long range.

The first season of McLemore’s two-year, $4.4MM contract with the Rockets became fully guaranteed on January 10th. “I love Ben,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told Lowe. “All he was lacking was confidence and an opportunity.” The rangy, athletic McLemore is averaging 10.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG, and 1.0 APG for the 26-12 Rockets. He is shooting 36.5% from long range on 6.7 attempts and 80% from the free-throw line.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • The trade market stock of 34-year-old Spurs center LaMarcus Aldridge is rising, writes San Antonio Express-News reporter Mike Finger. Finger postulates that Aldridge would have net more interest as a trade piece than fellow 30+ former All-Star big man, Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love, who has been very, very vocal about being unhappy in Cleveland. Aldridge has emerged as a moderate three-point shooting threat for the first time in his career, knocking down 45.5% of his 2.5 attempts per game, both career highs.
  • Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis was given a platelet-rich-plasma injection to treat the soreness in his right knee that has kept him in street clothes for two weeks, according to ESPN’s Tim McMahon. Porzingis is also grappling with an illness that has slowed his recovery process.
  • Polarizing, old-fashioned Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan returns to the team for whom he made four All-Star appearances today, the Raptors, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN reports. His former teammate, current Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry, reflected on his contributions to Toronto basketball. “I think he poured his heart into the city,” Lowry said. “He gave the city and lot and the city [saw] him grow from a boy to being a man.”

Southwest Notes: Ball, Porzingis, Capela, Jackson

Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball, acquired as part of the Anthony Davis trade package with the Lakers this summer, got off to a slow start in New Orleans. That said, Ball has displayed marked improvement since returning to the team’s starting lineup four games ago, according to Christian Clark of NOLA.com.

The Pelicans’ increased offensive pace also suits Ball’s athletic game. In his best game for New Orleans Sunday, Ball scored 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in a win over the Rockets. Ball’s point tally included connecting on a career-high seven triples.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry appreciated the team’s speed and floor spacing. “I thought our guys did a great job of creating space and just running into space,” Gentry said. “By doing that, I thought we had open shots. That’s the way we have to try to play.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division.

  • The Athletic’s Sam Amick spoke with new Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis about his adjustment to supporting Luka Doncic in Dallas. Porzingis is averaging 17.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG and 2.1 BPG. “In the very beginning of the season, it was a little bit frustrating for me because it’s a new system,” Porzingis told Amick. “[Doncic is] starting to read the game more when maybe I need to get a touch, when to run a play for me or somebody else on the team. And I feel like that connection is getting better.”
  • Rockets center Clint Capela returned to the hardwood for Houston on Tuesday after missing two games with a bruised right heel. The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen reports that Capela acknowledged he is still playing through pain stemming from the injury.
  • The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears spoke with Grizzlies forward Josh Jackson, currently logging time with Memphis’ G League affiliate, the Memphis Hustle. “The last time I had fun like this was maybe AAU,” Jackson, taken No. 4 in the 2017 draft by the Suns, told Spears. “Don’t feel bad for me. It’s an opportunity. I am just thankful I get to play basketball.” Jackson is averaging 20.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.3 APG and 2.6 made triples through 18 Hustle bouts.

Knicks Rumors: Fizdale, Durant, Porzingis, Griffin

Before being hired by the Knicks in the spring of 2018, David Fizdale was a highly sought-after head coaching candidate, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, who suggest that Fizdale had offers from the Hawks and Suns and was the leading candidate for the Hornets‘ opening as well. However, Fizdale was focused on New York and turned down other offers even before he received any assurances from the Knicks.

A year and a half later, Fizdale is back on the market after a miserable start to the 2019/20 season. Leading up to his ouster, Fizdale knew that team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry were meeting with players to get their input on why the Knicks weren’t showing progress, sources tell Shelburne and Wojnarowski. Eventually, Fizdale told Mills and Perry that he understood if they felt he’d become part of the problem.

Mike Miller has taken over as the Knicks’ interim head coach and should keep the job at least through the end of the season, assuming players respond to him, per the ESPN duo. But there have already been talks at the ownership level about potentially hiring a new coach during the season if the club’s struggles continue. That would present a new series of complications, since Mills and Perry are now on the hot seat themselves, and it’s not clear whether they’d get the go-ahead to pick a new coach.

Shelburne and Wojnarowski touch on many more topics in their latest article, exploring many other factors that have contributed to the Knicks’ ongoing struggles in recent years. The piece is absolutely worth checking out in full, but here are a few highlights:

  • Kevin Durant did “strongly” consider the Knicks as a free agent destination earlier this year, but when he and Kyrie Irving talked about teaming up, Durant never pushed the Knicks the way Irving pushed the Nets, sources tell ESPN. Shelburne and Wojnarowski also suggest that team owner James Dolan was wary about bringing aboard Durant and his torn Achilles after the Knicks’ experience with Amar’e Stoudemire.
  • The Knicks began gauging Kristaps Porzingis‘ trade value early in 2019, offering him to the Pelicans in an Anthony Davis package, per ESPN. When New Orleans showed little interest in that proposal, the Knicks began to wonder if league-wide interest in Porzingis may not be as high as they believed.
  • When Porzingis and his brother (and agent) Janis found out the Knicks were discussing a possible trade with the Mavericks, they hurried a meeting with the team, providing a wish list of four destinations (Nets, Clippers, Raptors, and Heat), according to Shelburne and Wojnarowski. The Knicks turned around and quickly finalized a deal with Dallas, perhaps not wanting to lose leverage when Porzingis’ request leaked. The series of events left more than a dozen teams around the NBA wondering why they didn’t have a chance to bid on Porzingis, and suggested one of two things to rivals, per Shelburne and Woj: Either the Knicks knew Durant and Irving were coming, or they didn’t know how to properly execute a franchise-altering trade.
  • After parting ways with Phil Jackson in 2017, the Knicks initially zeroed in on David Griffin, who told the organization he was interested only if he could become president of basketball operations and report directly to ownership. Dolan suggested he was “excited” about that idea, sources tell Shelburne and Woj. However, Griffin soon realized – particularly when word broke that the Knicks had signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $71MM deal – that he likely wouldn’t have full autonomy and would have to report to Mills. He met with the club but withdrew his name from consideration shortly after that meeting.
  • The Knicks subsequently pivoted to Perry, a candidate “without the gravitas or leverage to demand a direct line to ownership.” Perry’s contract includes fourth- and fifth-year options that must be exercised this season, according to ESPN. It seems unlikely at this point that New York will pick up those options for 2020/21 and ’21/22.

Southwest Notes: Forbes, Porzingis, Rivers, Zion

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News wonders if Spurs shooting guard Bryn Forbes can retain the deft stroke he employed in the team’s recent 135-133 double overtime defeat of the Rockets. Forbes racked up 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field, including a sparkling five-of-six from deep.

If Forbes can shoot well enough, he should remain entrenched as the Spurs’ starting two guard, McDonald writes. Forbes himself expressed confidence that he could: “I’ve put in a lot of work, and I don’t do it to miss shots.” 

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Kristaps Porzingis, the Mavericks‘ 7’3″ sharp-shooting, shot-blocking “Unicorn,” has adapted his game since being traded from the Knicks. The explosive offensive fire power of his triple-doubling teammate Luka Doncic has impacted how KP can best help in Dallas. The Athletic’s Shams Charania unpacks how the 24 year-old has adapted his shot profile and playmaking in Dallas, upon signing a five-year, $158MM extension in July. “Some nights I get more opportunities and some nights I don’t get as many opportunities,” Porzingis told Charania. “But most nights, we give Luka the ball and let him f***ing go.”
  • Ahead of what would become a 115-109 Rockets victory last night, guard Austin Rivers had high praise for current Suns coach Monty Williams. Williams served as Rivers’ first head coach when both were with the Pelicans (then the Hornets). “I’ll tell you, in terms of on-the-ball defense, I think I’m as good as anybody,” Rivers said, per The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen. “I really do give credit to Monty. He was so on me about defense, it’s all I thought about.” Rivers re-signed with the Rockets this summer on a two-year,$4.5MM veteran’s minimum contract.
  • Much-ballyhooed Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson, the 2019 No. 1 pick, has started partaking in light on-court team work recently, but he had yet to begin on-court work as of December 4. Williamson will not make the original six-to-eight-week knee surgery recovery window projected by Pelicans brass. William Guillory of The Athletic opines that New Orleans’ cardinal sin, though, is a lack of defensive effort or hustle, and Zion won’t be able to solve that issue on his own.

Knicks Notes: Knox, Ntilikina, Porzingis, Ujiri

Knicks head coach David Fizdale is using the term “tough love” to describe his decision to bench second-year forward Kevin Knox, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Knox was held out of Friday’s loss to the Sixers and had only been averaging 12.1 minutes per night in the previous four games. It’s been a trend for the ninth overall pick in last year’s draft, whose minutes have fallen from 28.8 per game in 2018/19 to 19.8 this season.

“Sometimes they’ve got to go through some tough love to find themselves and watch the game from 25,000 feet, see it, and see the things that I’m emphasizing,” Fizdale said after Saturday’s practice. “I was tough on Frank (Ntilikina) last year and I just feel like Frank has come back with a whole different mindset about how he’s going to go about this season. I’ve been so happy with the way he’s played and produced. But I do think a little bit of tough love on some of these young guys isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

Knox will be “a consideration, for sure” to return to the lineup today, Fizdale added. Marcus Morris is listed as questionable for the game because of cervical spasms in his neck.

There’s more from New York this morning:

  • Ntilikina tells Botte that he benefited from last year’s experience and encourages Knox to find ways to help the team when he’s not on the court. Ntilikina began this season out of the rotation, but has made 14 consecutive starts at point guard. He said an offseason meeting with Fizdale gave him a new perspective. “There’s a lot of noise with this team, a lot of expectations,” Ntilikina explained. “Around this city, a lot of expectations. Obviously, those expectations are for us to get better. But what we have to understand, too, is we have expectations, and [Fizdale] wants us to get better, and he wants us to be the best team possible. He wants us to be the best possible, that’s the same for every player.”
  • Former Knicks guard Trey Burke, who was part of the package sent to Dallas in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, offered some insight into Porzingis’ perspective on the deal and his falling out with management in New York, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. “A lot of things the press said, he felt like wasn’t true,’’ Burke said. “He feels like there was a narrative that got out about him, he couldn’t defend himself. I don’t know if (Dallas) told him not to talk that much, but he wasn’t talking. I do think he has his side.’’
  • The Knicks may try to lure Raptors executive Masai Ujiri after the season ends, and there are fears in Toronto that he might accept their offer, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Ujiri may view New York City as a larger platform to help expand his Giants of Africa foundation, which aids children in his home continent.