Porzingis on track for return as Celtics prepare for NBA Finals

Porzingis on track for return as Celtics prepare for NBA Finals

/ 10:48 AM June 03, 2024

Kristaps Porzingis Boston Celtics NBA

FILE–Kristaps Porzingis #8 of the Boston Celtics points at Payton Pritchard #11 after Pritchard hit a three-point basket during the second half against the Sacramento Kings at TD Garden on April 5, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

BOSTON — Whether injured Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis will be ready in time for the start of the NBA Finals this week is still to be determined.

But signs are pointing to him being able to return to the court sooner rather than later during Boston’s matchup with the Dallas Mavericks.

The 7-footer hasn’t appeared in a game since sustaining a strained left calf in Game 4 of Boston’s first-round playoff series against Miami on April 29.


READ: NBA: Celtics’ Porzingis leaves Game 4 vs Heat with right calf injury

But 4-1 victories over the Heat and Cleveland in the second ground, followed by a 4-0 sweep of Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals, have given the Latvian extended recovery time.

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla has refrained from making predictions on when he expects Porzingis to be available. But he was clear that his team is better with Porzingis in the lineup, despite compiling a 9-1 record without him this postseason.

“When KP is at his best, he’s been tremendous for us and we expect that from him and we know he’ll give that to us,” Mazzulla said.

Porzingis last spoke publicly on May 4, saying of the injury, “It’s something, it’s not nothing,” and adding that it would take “a little bit of time” to recover from.


His official status since then has been day to day as he slowly began rehabbing for a chance to face the Mavericks team he played for from 2019-22.

READ: The NBA Finals are set: Boston Celtics vs Dallas Mavericks

Porzingis took to social media this week to provide his most significant update, posting on the X platform, “I’ll be back in the lineup very soon. See you in the finals.”


Two days later, when the doors were opened to the media Friday after a practice session, Porzingis was one of only a handful of players still on the court, going through extended 3-point shooting drills with assistant coaches and trainers. He wore a compression sleeve on his injured left leg.

Then, on Saturday he participated in light 5-on-5 play with his teammates – his most extensive on-court workout since sustaining his injury.

Mazzulla said Porzingis “did everything the team did” during Saturday’s practice and was expected to go through a more intense session on Sunday.

Assuming he clears that benchmark, it would mark the most promising sign yet that the Celtics could soon get back the scorer and rim protector that Boston traded longtime stalwart Marcus Smart for this past offseason.

READ: Celtics can now begin thinking about NBA championship

When healthy, Porzingis has provided on both ends of the floor, averaging 20.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks during the regular season while appearing in 57 games. Before his injury in the Miami series, he averaged 14.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

Porzingis missed seven games earlier this season with what the team called left calf injuries. He also missed time with a smattering of other issues this season, from inflammation and bruises in his right knee, right hamstring problems, a sprained left ankle and a sore back.

Those ailments added up to 25 missed games in which Boston went 21-4.

Celtics guard Derrick White, who was voted to the NBA All-Defensive third team along with teammate Jrue Holiday, said Porzingis’ presence on the defensive end is hard to replicate.

“He does a great job of just making things difficult,” White said. “It’s always nice to know that he’s back there, whether he blocks or he doesn’t block. He makes them think about it. That’s been really great having him on our side, just doing the things he did day in and day out. Once he comes back and gets in the flow I think it’s going to be nice.”

Holiday said one of the reasons the Celtics have been able to excel without Porzingis during this stretch is because they remember what it was like going through those periods during the regular season without him.

“I go back to the regular season where sometimes KP was out and Al (Horford) was in and vice versa. We literally went through it before,” Holiday said. “We kind of went through all scenarios before of what could happen or what would happen or whatever. And it kind of shows.”

That said, Holiday said the preference is to have him available when the finals tip off on Thursday. He doesn’t think re-integrating him back into the lineup will be an issue.

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“KP is one of the best scorers. He’s one of our best rim protectors,” Holiday said. “And I feel like we’re all mature enough to get back in the groove or have him fit right back in whenever he comes back. And we do want KP back. We can’t wait for him to be back and be a part of this on the court.”

TAGS: Boston Celtics, Kristaps Porzingis, NBA Finals

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