Brad Townsend: I noted to Luka Doncic that fans and media have noticed his increased on-court interactions with Porzingis. “I think that’s more the media,” he said with a smile, adding firmly “We’re good.”
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“Every time I think about Luka, I think about the natural talent that he is,” Porziņģis says. “The kid is unbelievable. He’s always known what it takes to win.”
Callie Caplan: Kristaps Porzingis on @dfwticket said he and Luka speak mostly in Spanish on the court: “That’s for everybody else on the court to not understand what we’re saying.” The more ya know … or don’t.
What do you guys see that makes Porzingis a perfect fit for Luka Doncic? Harrison: “The skill set that he brings matches with Luka, but I also think that the thing about Kristaps is … people put a lot on him in terms of the reason why their season ended but he was doing what he was told to do. He’s actually a team player and I think we’re just gonna put him in position to succeed.”
First Take: .@stephenasmith comments on the “noise” surrounding the Mavs. “Some people have accused [Kristaps Porzingis] of being jealous [of Luka Doncic].”
Tim MacMahon: Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson was asked about the Luka Doncic/Kristaps Porzingis dynamic. His answer: pic.twitter.com/kMXdX4SXfK
But Porzingis has been frustrated, often feeling more like an afterthought than a co-star as Doncic dominates the ball and the spotlight, sources told ESPN. Porzingis frequently made thinly veiled references during his postgame media availabilities, such as saying the “ball actually moved tonight” after high-scoring performances or stating that the offense didn’t involve him on low-scoring nights. “It’s just the plays we were running,” Porzingis said after an April 7 loss to the last-place Houston Rockets when asked why he didn’t get any shots in the fourth quarter despite scoring 23 points on 10-of-19 shooting in the game. After a pause, he added: “Happened before also.”
The Mavericks are obviously Doncic’s franchise. But one of the biggest questions for the Mavs moving forward is how Porzingis fits into the picture. “Good question,” Porzingis said after Game 7, pausing to collect his thoughts. “How do I feel? I mean, I’m good. I tried to put in the work, tried to work hard. I do my part, listen to the coaches, what I’m asked to do, and that’s it. “I try to keep it simple for myself, so I’m not overthinking, and I try to focus on what I can control. That’s being a better basketball player, going into the offseason hungry. I want to get better physically [and] on the basketball court. I’m going to put that work in to get better, and then the rest of the stuff will resolve itself.”
After Game 7, Porzingis called it a “mental battle” to play a role that wasn’t comfortable for him. He said he tried to channel the focus from his rookie year on playing hard and doing little things to help his team. “And whatever I do, it seems like it’s always something,” Porzingis said, acknowledging the scrutiny on him. “I just try to be as professional as I can.”
Perhaps that’s a natural reaction when Porzingis became subject to trade rumors, ones which made his status clear as a second-tier star next to Doncic. (Talent-wise, that obviously is correct; it still isn’t enjoyable for it to be publicly projected into the universe.) Many team, player and league sources, whenever asked, have consistently told The Athletic there is no unknown “incident” between the two players, no flash point to spark a change in their dynamic.
In an email to The Athletic, Cuban clarified that his “dust-ups” comment referred to “a guy thinks a pass should come his way and it doesn’t (or) coach runs a play for the guy.” He added, “No more dust-up.” In a Spanish-language interview after Cuban’s comments, Porzingis said, “I’ve never had any problems with my teammates off the court, I’ve always gotten along very well with them. I don’t know what Cuban was talking about. I try to be as professional as possible.”
Many team, player and league sources, whenever asked, have consistently told The Athletic there is no unknown “incident” between the two players, no flash point to spark a change in their dynamic. In an email to The Athletic, Cuban clarified that his “dust-ups” comment referred to “a guy thinks a pass should come his way and it doesn’t (or) coach runs a play for the guy.” He added, “No more dust-up.” In a Spanish-language interview after Cuban’s comments, Porzingis said, “I’ve never had any problems with my teammates off the court, I’ve always gotten along very well with them. I don’t know what Cuban was talking about. I try to be as professional as possible.”
Dallas still plays its best offensive basketball with Doncic and Porzingis paired together; lineups featuring that duo averaged 118.2 points per 100 possessions this season, better than any other two-man duo Doncic was part of. One notable problem has been Porzingis’ inability to remain efficient without Doncic alongside him. His True Shooting craters to under 50 percent, and the team’s offense sinks more than five points per 100 possessions beneath its season average. This resonates with a player who functions as an elite floor-spacer but isn’t as effective creating his own shot. But in the postseason, Dallas will maximize the minutes those two play together — and how many minutes they each play generally.
Porzingis has spoken openly on several occasions about needing time to get comfortable in a new system, particularly when he was getting a large share of his shots as a spot-up shooter from 3-point range. The Mavs’ offense has evolved to mix in more midrange opportunities for Porzingis, an element of his game that he values but wasn’t analytics-friendly earlier this season. “Luka’s done a great job communicating to me [about] where I wanna get the ball,” Porzingis said. “He’s also getting used to playing with me and he’s really starting to find me in those spots where I’m comfortable, that midrange area. And slowly these things are starting to click. I think as we keep working, playing together, it’s going to get better and better and better.”
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October 27, 2021 | 2:40 am EDT Update
When asked specifically if this is one of those games where Simmons’ absence is felt, Rivers quickly dismissed that thought. “I don’t worry about that,” he quickly said. “Ben’s not here, so yeah. If we would’ve won the game, so, no. I don’t do that.”