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Jun 4, 2024 6:55 pm

Celtics C/F Kristaps Porzingis plans to play in Game 1 vs. Mavericks

Kristaps Porzingis

Boston Celtics star Kristaps Porzingis, who has not played since April 29 because of a calf injury, plans to be available for Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks.

“That is the plan right now,” Porzingis said on Tuesday in his first public comments since May 4. “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.”

The 7-foot-2 power forward/center sustained a non-contact right calf strain in Game 4 of Boston’s first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat.

He averaged 20.1 points and 7.2 rebounds and shot a career-best 51.6 percent from the floor in the regular season, his first in Boston. The Celtics acquired him from the Washington Wizards as part of a three-team trade also involving the Memphis Grizzlies on June 23, 2023.

Porzingis, 28, also played during parts of three seasons with the Mavericks (2019-22), adding another layer to the matchup after he watched Boston go 9-1 without him. The Celtics dispatched Miami in five games, the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games and the Indiana Pacers in a four-game sweep in the Eastern Conference finals.

“I think it’s gonna be great,” Porzingis said. “I played there for 2 1/2 years and I’m happy for everybody in Dallas. A lot of like great relationships I have there and I think they deserve to have some success like they’ve had this season.

“It’s gonna be fun going up against my old team, going back to Dallas, playing some games there. Looking forward to it.”

But first, Porzingis has to be healthy enough to play. The native of Latvia was asked Tuesday if he’s at 100 percent after resuming participation in team practices.

“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.”

He said it’s hard to replicate game intensity in practice but “I have to be confident it will be all right.”

“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.”

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla is confident in Porzingis’ ability as a veteran player to handle returning to action after the layoff.

“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.”

–Field Level Media

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