Mavericks star Kristaps Porzingis out 'until at least January' following right knee surgery

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Ben Rohrbach
·3 min read
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Kristaps Porzingis will be out until "at least January," according to the Dallas Mavericks. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Kristaps Porzingis will be out until "at least January," according to the Dallas Mavericks. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

As NBA training camps launched on Tuesday, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle provided a little more clarity on Kristaps Porzingis’ health status following surgery in October to repair a later meniscus tear in his right knee, telling reporters that the All-Star big man will not be available for games “until at least January.”

“His rehab has gone without issue,” Carlisle told reporters during his media availability, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “He’s on schedule. If anything, we’re having to hold him back right now. He’s back to doing light court work, so things are going well. He will not, however, play until at least January.”

Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson previously told reporters last month that the team would not rush Porzingis’ rehab, suggesting, “He’s going to [return sometime] into the season.

Porzingis suffered the injury 20 minutes into Game 1 of the Mavericks’ first-round playoff series with the Los Angeles Clippers. He returned to play significant minutes in Games 2 and 3 before being ruled out for the remainder of the series. Luka Doncic helped Dallas push the Clippers to six games before a first-round exit.

Porzingis tore his right ACL in February 2018 and proceeded to miss the entire 2018-19 season. The New York Knicks traded him in January 2019, and before he ever played a game for the Mavs, Porzingis signed a five-year, $158 million contract extension. A second knee surgery in Year 1 of that deal is a serious concern.

Porzingis averaged 20.4 points (on 43/35/80 shooting splits), 9.5 rebounds and two blocks in 31.8 minutes over 57 regular-season games for the Mavericks last season. By regular season’s end, he looked as close to his pre-ACL injury All-Star form as the NBA had seen him, scoring 39 points in his Orlando bubble debut.

Even after the initial injury, Porzingis posted 36 points and 13 rebounds in a narrow Game 3 loss to the Clippers. It was the kind of production that could help Doncic compete for championships as the 21-year-old wunderkind develops into MVP form. That is why the Mavs will move so slowly with Porzingis’ rehab.

However, every two-week absence is roughly the equivalent of missing 10 percent of the NBA’s compacted 72-game schedule from Dec. 22 through May 16. Missing Porzingis for a month could seriously impact the Mavericks’ positioning as they compete for a spot in a crowded 2021 Western Conference playoff picture.

Nelson also said last month that the Mavs were confident Dwight Powell would help them “out of the gates” this coming season. Powell, who started 37 games in the Dallas frontcourt alongside Porzingis, tore his right Achilles tendon on Jan. 21. There is no telling with that injury if and when Powell will reach top form.

The Mavericks traded for Willie Cauley-Stein as a replacement in the wake of Powell’s injury and re-signed him this offseason as added insurance, given the potential limitations of their top two options at center. Cauley-Stein did not join Dallas for the NBA’s restart in Orlando due to the birth of his first child in July.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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