In a very real way, Rick Carlisle has already started working on next season.
The 7-foot-3 center/forward was the crown jewel in the seven-player trade with the New York Knicks last week but his debut in a Mavericks uniform will have to wait until next season while he recovers from an ACL injury.
Carlisle, however, can’t wait to get Porzingis on the floor with Luka Doncic. It’s easy to understand why. Carlisle sees much of what has made Dirk Nowitzki a Hall of Famer in Porzingis, who is a former All-Star and one of the budding young superstars in the league. Doncic, who turns 20 on Feb. 28, has quickly shown why the Mavs were so intent on trading up to get him in last year’s draft. He’s destined to earn Rookie of the Year honors.
“Luka is going to be one of our best perimeter players, of course, and Kristaps is a unique big guy who can play inside and outside and he can play well in the mid-range,” Carlisle said after practice Saturday afternoon. The Mavs host the Portland Trail Blazers at 2 p.m. Sunday.
During their meeting, Carlisle showed Porzingis film of Nowitzki and some of the other top, versatile big men in the league to give him an idea on what the Mavs hope he brings.
“It’s important to have a vision of the direction you’re going to be going when you’re in a rehab situation like him,” he said. “So you can get your mind focused on the kind of movements that are going to be required. It was a very good meeting. I asked him for some feedback. We had good discussions. We have a good plan.”
By all accounts, including from Porzingis, his rehab is moving along well. It has been a year and a few days since his injury on Feb. 6, 2018.
Carlisle declined to go into detail on how he sees Porzingis’ style of play differing from his time with the Knicks, which is understandable considering his first real game in a Dallas uniform is still eight months away.
“We’re a ways away from this coming to real fruition but this is where the communication and the visual things are important. We’re staying on top of it,” he said.
Porzingis’ teammates who came with him in the trade, including Trey Burke, already know firsthand what he can bring to the court.
“He’s a star. He’s definitely a guy who can lead a franchise,” Burke said. “He makes a point guard’s job so much easier with his ability to space the floor. His versatility on both ends of the court, I think he’s a rim protector as well. We all can’t wait for him to get back.”
Burke definitely sees a comparison with Nowitzki.
“Their ability to knock down shots from any where on the court. It’s easy to play with those guys,” he said. “A few times [Friday] night I looked up and realized I’m playing with Dirk. I was eight or nine years old watching Dirk in the NBA. It’s definitely a surreal feeling.”
And after playing just two games with Doncic, he said, it was clear how much he helps his teammates.
“I like it a lot. He takes the pressure off of you to be the ball-dominant guy. Both our abilities to play on and off the ball, I think we complement each other really well,” he said. “He’s a very unselfish player, a guy who can get in the paint and make plays for himself or others. He’s fun to play with.”
It’s not only Carlisle who is fantasizing about having Doncic and Porzingis on the floor together.
“Both of those guys are very skilled,” Burke said. “They bring a different aspect to this team. They’re aggressive at all times. They both cause problems. It should be fun seeing those guys together and should be fun playing with those guys as well. Right now, it’s kind of bleak because KP is out but we’re all looking forward to it.”