Not everyone will be sending Kristaps Porzingis gifts. The star’s 25th birthday is a harsh reminder for Knicks fans about what could’ve been.
The 7-foot-3 Latvian has a number of noteworthy marks worth celebrating and the Mavericks did just that:
Of course, Porzingis could’ve still been doing this in a Knicks uniform.
After Porzingis and his brother/agent Janis had a rift with the Knicks front office and asked for a trade, they shipped him along with Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee to the Mavericks. They received DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, Dennis Smith Jr. and two first-round picks in return. The idea was to secure future assets and clear cap space to make a run at top free agents in the offseason.
Eighteen months later, Porzingis, alongside star Luka Doncic, has the Mavericks sitting at 40-29 with a playoff berth clinched in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Knicks no longer have Jordan or Matthews, and Smith finished the 2019-20 season averaging 5.5 points and 2.9 assists on 34 percent from the field and 30 percent from three.
The Knicks hoped offloading Porzingis would free up significant cap space to make a run at two max-level stars in free agency like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, both of whom ended up signing with the Nets. Team president Steve Mills was fired midway through the season.
Originally dubbed “the unicorn” by Durant, Porzingis can shoot from behind the arc, score inside and is an elite shot-blocker. Currently, he’s averaging 19.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks on 42 percent from the field and 35 percent from behind the arc after missing a season-and-a-half with a torn ACL.
Nearing the playoffs, Porzingis has raised his game in the NBA’s bubble in Orlando. He recorded 39 points and 16 rebounds in a 153-149 overtime loss to the Rockets, and followed it up with 30 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in a 117-115 loss to the Suns.
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Despite the losses, the Mavs are guaranteed to be at least the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. The Knicks were one of eight teams not to qualify for the bubble and recently hired Leon Rose to replace Mills and Tom Thibodeau as their new caoch.
“We don’t want to try to go too far ahead,” Porzingis said before the COVID-19 break. “But I think all of our mind-sets are that we’re a dangerous team, and I think we can surprise people.”
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