Mac Engel

The Mavs committed to Porzingis more than they ever did for Dirk

The man who let Steve Nash walk only to regret it is not taking the same risk again, even though Mark Cuban is doing just that with The Unicorn.

As NBA free agency began with the typical dump of deals that were actually made in the weeks leading up to Sunday’s 5 p.m. green flag, the Mavs agreed with Kristaps Porzingis on a five-year, $158 million deal. That is the richest contract in the history of a franchise that includes Dirk Nowitzki.

The Zinger has not played a single game for the Dallas Mavericks, yet Cuban is committing to him as if he is Dirk in the prime of his career.

Insane.

Zingis has never played a full NBA season. Because of his size, do not expect him to. He missed all of last season with a torn ACL that he suffered in February 2018. He has played a total of 186 NBA games. He has been an All-Star once.

(And he also had a sexual assault charge that appears to be a pathetic attempt at blackmail, was on the wrong end of a stupid nightclub fracas in Latvia, and has the look of a guy who may be the NBA’s first Euro donna.)

But this is the reality of Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks: They have no choice. No other major name wants to come here through free agency.

What the Mavs did Sunday by agreeing with Zingis to this deal is the equivalent of Oklahoma City giving max cash to Russell Westbrook. You just have to do it.

THE UPSIDE TO GIVING PORZINGIS A MAX DEAL

When the Mavs traded DeAndre Jordan, some first round picks and others to the New York Knicks for Zingis in January, they did so knowing a max contract was imminent. Cuban said at Zingis’ introductory press conference he would give him a max deal, to which the Unicorn smiled and said OK.

When Zingis is right, as he showed in his second and third NBA seasons, he can score, run, shoot and block shots. He’s not close to his prime yet, and when he hits it he will be a major problem for other teams.

He is a 7-foot-3 player who can shoot like a two-guard, defend the rim like a center, and score against forwards. Zingis is a matchup migraine.

By securing him to this deal, it gives the Mavs two young Euros they can win with immediately, and build around to become one of the few teams that actually can contend for an NBA title. At a minimum, they will be fun to watch.

THE SCARY RISK IN GIVING PORZINGIS A MAX DEAL

In limited workouts with the Mavs, Porzingis looks like the guy who all of New York was ready to anoint King during his All-Star year, before he tore his ACL.

We are talking about a skyscraper of a human who is recovering from a major knee injury. There is no guarantee when he returns he will be the same player. Everyone recovers at their own rate.

At 7-foot-3, he is more vulnerable to injury than his “tiny” counterparts who roam the earth at a mere 6-feet-10 inches. The biggest of the NBA’s big men have a tendency to get hurt more frequently.

We are talking about a guy who has a “team” of his own guys, including his brother, who is also his agent. Now, few teams are better at stroking the modern day jock better than the Mavericks, but typically when these guys sense they can have some power there is never enough.

We are also talking about the Dallas Mavericks, a franchise that Cuban, thanks to Dirk, made relevant in the NBA. But they are not the Lakers, Celtics or any celebrity franchise. They are like most every other team, especially those located in Middle Earth.

When a player like Zingis actually lands on your team, you have no choice but to keep them and to accept the risk no matter the insanity.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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