Nearly two years after ACL tear, Kristaps Porzingis feels ‘better than I ever have in my life’

Ryan YoungYahoo Sports Contributor
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/5464/" data-ylk="slk:Kristaps Porzingis">Kristaps Porzingis</a> is entering training camp with the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/dallas/" data-ylk="slk:Dallas Mavericks">Dallas Mavericks</a> healthy and ready to go after tearing his ACL nearly two years ago in New York. (Omar Vega/Getty Images)
Kristaps Porzingis is entering training camp with the Dallas Mavericks healthy and ready to go after tearing his ACL nearly two years ago in New York. (Omar Vega/Getty Images)

For the first time in a long time, Kristaps Porzingis is back to normal.

Porzingis, who tore the ACL in his left knee nearly 20 months ago before his trade to the Dallas Mavericks, is entering training camp this week finally back to full strength — if not more so.

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“I feel great physically. I feel 100 percent,” Porzingis said, via ESPN “I feel probably better than I ever have in my life.”

The 7-foot-3 center tore his ACL in February 2018 while playing with the New York Knicks. He was traded to the Mavericks in a blockbuster deal just before the trade deadline last season after a rocky ending with the Knicks front office, and re-signed with Dallas this summer — inking a five-year, $158 million max contract.

Porzingis hasn’t done much since he went down with the injury at Madison Square Garden, and sat out the entirety of last season in Dallas to focus on his recovery despite being medically cleared to compete. Shortly after he joined the team, the New York Police Department began investigating allegations that Porzingis sexually assaulted a woman in February 2018 — just hours after he tore his ACL. Porzingis denied those allegations through his attorney, and claimed he’s the victim of an extortion plot. That investigation is still ongoing.

Even though he’s entering training camp with no restrictions, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said they still plan to be cautious with their new star.

“If I had a gun to my head, I would say that there’s a good chance that we will be very careful on back-to-backs, particularly to start the year,” Carlisle said, via ESPN. “But I don’t know for sure. I don't know how he’s going to be feeling at that point. He may be insisting on playing, but I do believe in his case and in the case of any player like that, the Mavericks or whatever team is going to err on the side of caution.”

We could ‘be a nightmare for the teams going forward’

Porzingis’ addition to the Mavericks could be the missing piece to their organization — one that hasn’t seen a winning record or the playoffs since the 2015-16 season.

The 24-year-old was averaging 22.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game before he went down with the ACL injury, and had solidified himself as one of the league’s next big stars. He’s a big reason why reigning Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic — who put up 21.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last year — thinks the Mavericks can accomplish a lot this season.

“He’s an amazing player, great talent, hard worker,” Doncic said, via ESPN. “We have him, me and a lot of great players on this team, so that’s why I want to make the playoffs and I hope we do.”

While it’s been nearly two years since he’s seen the court, Porzingis is naturally more than ready to get back out there. And if he and Doncic can find the right chemistry, Porzingis believes they can be “a nightmare for teams going forward.”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been out, but I’ve been putting in work throughout this rehab process,” Porzingis said. “I’m extremely excited to be back on the court and to remind everybody what I’m capable of doing.”

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