For the Mavericks, it was the talk of last season and, certainly, something that reared its head during the offseason, too. Around the league, there were rumblings that all was not well between the team’s two best players, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
New coach Jason Kidd, though, has a strong take on what he sees as the link between the 26-year-old Porzingis, the 7-foot-3 power forward in his third season with the Mavs, and Doncic, the face of the franchise.
It’s fake news, Kidd said.
“I think we all heard in NBA circles that there was tension between the two,” Kidd said on Thursday, in an ESPN interview. “But I would have to say that’s fake news. I think they both want to compete, I think they really want to compete. There was some other issues that I thought they did a great job of keeping in house. It had nothing to do with those two. I’m excited. I think the relationship between the two of them is at a high level. They’re basketball players who want to compete and who, you know, they want to win. For a coach, I have to put them into position to be successful. But I think their relationship is great.”
Porzingis Has Struggled in 2 Mavericks Seasons
That may be, but there is little doubt that things were not always going along swimmingly in Dallas, especially for Porzingis. He was coming off knee surgery when the Mavs acquired him from the Knicks in 2019, and has had more downs than ups in his time alongside Doncic.
He struggled with his shooting in his first year back after getting his ACL repaired, shooting 42.7% from the field and 35.2% from the 3-point line even as he averaged 20.4 points. He averaged 20.1 points last year, but saw his shooting improve to 47.6% from the field and 37.6% from the 3-point line.
He was injured three games into the team’s first-round loss in the playoffs in 2020, in the NBA’s Orlando bubble, and was a disaster in this year’s seven-game loss to the Clippers in the first round. Porzingis averaged just 13.1 points and shot 29.6% on 3s.
Porzingis, according to ESPN’s Tim McMahon, felt excluded from the Mavs’ offense last year.
After Game 7 of the loss to the Clippers, Porzingis was asked how he fit in going forward. “Good question,” Porzingis said. “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.”
Mavericks Sought to Trade Porzingis Last Season
There is also little question that the Mavericks explored the trade market for Porzingis, at least feeling out a handful of teams on what they might get in return for their wayward big guy. Nothing amounted to those talks, but they indicate that some in Dallas felt Porzingis was never going to mesh with Doncic.
However, the Mavericks overhauled the organizational structure this offseason, replacing coach Rick Carlisle—the guy with whom Porzingis had the most trouble—with Kidd. It has been obvious that Kidd, publicly, is trying to help smooth over any past issues with Porzingis within the organization, in part by denying they ever existed.
It’s a good strategy. The Mavs are not going to get fair value by trading Porzingis when his trade worth is as low as it is now. The best play is to rebuild Porzingis’ confidence and get him playing well, in hopes that he can either be the second star the Mavs so badly need—or raise his trade value so that the Mavs can explore the market again.