Imagine a world where a max contract player makes it to the NBA Finals and then leaves that team via free agency that summer and then doesn’t play the following season because he got injured before signing the deal.
You’d be Kevin Durant. Durant made his NBA preseason debut last weekend against the Washington Wizards after being away from the NBA court for 18 months.
“It feels like eternity,” Durant told Brooklyn Nets teammate, Kyrie Irving via Instagram Live last weekend.
“It’s been 18 months.
“We here now. We might as well lock in.”
All-Star, Kevin Durant will make his regular season NBA debut as a member of the Nets on Tuesday.
Comparatively, in January 2019, Kristaps Porzingis, Trey Burke, Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr. were traded to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, Dennis Smith Jr., an unprotected 2021 first-round draft pick, and an additional top-ten protected 2023 first round draft pick.
Once arriving in Dallas, Porzingis, a max player, sat out for the the remainder of the 2018–19 season while healing from his ACL injury.
Believing in Porzingis’ potential, the Mavericks re-signed the Latvian 7-footer to a five-year maximum contract worth $158 million.
Appearing on the Heavy Live With Scoop B Show this week, I asked Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban whether he believed in the risk and reward of signing a max player who has to sit out for some time due to a major injury. “Yeah we believe in it,” he told me.
“That’s when you listen to your doctors. And your doctors will tell you the truth and now KP got dinged up again but, he’s gonna be back sooner than people expect and we don’t expect a lot of long term problems.”
Rewind to last season, Porzingis made his Mavs debut in October 2019 and scored 23 points and 4 rebounds in a 108–100 win over the Washington Wizards.
In January of this year he had a few other good outings: A season-high 35 points and 12 rebounds in a 128–121 loss to the Houston Rockets, a 38-point, 12-rebound outing in a 112–103 win against the Indiana Pacers in February and then a 32 point, 12 rebound game in a 121–107 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies two days later.
Porzingis stayed healthy last season through the NBA’s coronavirus shut down back in March. During Game 1 of the Dallas Mavericks’ matchup agains the Los Angeles Clippers, Porzingis experienced a lateral meniscus tear of his right knee.
With the NBA season beginning on Tuesday, Porzingis is expected to travel with the Mavericks to Phoenix and Los Angeles for their season-opening games against the Suns, Lakers and Clippers.
According to Mavs head coach, Rick Carlisle, Porzingis will not play until at least January. “He looks good,” said Carlisle this week.
“He’s enthusiastic. He’s got a great vibe about how he’s feeling and how he’s progressing. There’s no timetable yet. It’s going to be at least January, but there are a lot of good signs.”