Celtics Coach Joe Mazzulla Says Kristaps Porzingis Will Have ‘A Little Bit Of Rust’

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Boston Celtics Coach Joe Mazzulla Says Kristaps Porzingis Will Have 'A Little Bit Of Rust' in NBA Finals

Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis said Tuesday that “the plan” is for him to be available in Game 1 of the 2024 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

“That is the plan right now,” Porzingis said of playing Thursday. “Again, it’s a couple more days, and I think that could make a difference. Every day gives me a bit more time to get even better.”

Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis has not played since suffering a right calf strain in the first round

Porzingis, 28, has been out since suffering a right calf strain in Game 4 of the Celtics’ first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat. He returned to practice Friday and participated fully in a light session Saturday.

All eyes are on the 2018 NBA All-Star given he spent three years with the Mavericks before being traded in February 2022. In 57 games (all starts) with Dallas in the 2019-20 season, he averaged 20.4 points and a career-high 9.5 rebounds per contest.

When Porzingis was asked Tuesday if he is 100 percent right now, the center took several long seconds before responding.

“Good question,” he said. “I don’t know. We’ll see. Done a lot of work up until this point. Done everything needed to get back into playing shape. We’ll see.”

Afterwards, when the Celtics’ big asked if he’s running pain-free, he answered, “Yes.”

Porzingis said he’s been participating in practices with the team. However, game speed is different for an injured player at a team scrimmage than on the court against a playoff opponent.

The eight-year veteran also added that he has confidence his leg will hold up once he’s in those situations.

“I think the medical staff would not put me out there if they wouldn’t be confident that I’d be good,” Porzingis said. “I’ve done the things necessary to check the boxes, and that’s it.

“Of course, it’s hard to imitate the same intensity in practice. That intensity is going to be a completely different level, but I have to be confident it will be all right.”

Coach Joe Mazzulla expects Porzingis to pick up right where he left off in the NBA Finals

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla is unsure whether Kristaps Porzingis will be ready for Game 1, considering how much time the 7-foot-2 big man has missed out of Boston’s starting lineup.

“He’s been playing basketball for like 30 years,” Mazzulla said. “He’s been playing intense situations his whole life, so I don’t think that will be much of an issue. I think everything was just dependent upon — obviously you can’t simulate the speed and the intensity of the game, which I think just comes with a little bit of reps.

“KP is a great player. I think just because you’ve been out for a month doesn’t mean you have to, like, relearn how to play basketball. He’s been doing a lot of great things for us this season on both ends of the floor with physicality, with intensity. And I expect him to pick up right where he left off, but obviously there will be a little bit of rust. Just not concerned because of the work that he’s put in and what he’s done in his career and what he’s done in this season for us.”

In 57 games (all starts) of the regular season, Porzingis averaged 20.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.0 assists, helping the Celtics to a league-best 64-18 record and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Boston hosts the Mavericks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. ET.