Kristaps Porzingis will probably not play for the Dallas Mavericks this season as he continues to recover from a torn ACL in his left knee suffered a year ago, owner Mark Cuban told ESPN.
The Mavs acquired Porzingis as the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks on Thursday, believing that the 23-year-old power forward/center who was an All-Star last season can form an elite duo with 19-year-old rookie star Luka Doncic for years to come.
Porzingis, who indicated to Knicks management Thursday morning that he wanted to be traded, will be a restricted free agent this summer. The Mavs made the trade with the plan of signing the 7-foot-3 Porzingis to a long-term deal this offseason. Sources said the organization is confident Doncic and likely-to-retire legend Dirk Nowitzki, one of Porzingis’ idols, can help sell him on staying in Dallas.
“He loves Luka and Dirk,” one source said of Porzingis, whose other option would be to play next season on a qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent in 2020, an unprecedented move for a player of his caliber that would cost him millions of dollars. The qualifying offer is $4.5 million, while the Mavs can offer a maximum contract worth $158 million over five years.
Dallas sent second-year point guard Dennis Smith Jr., wing Wesley Matthews Jr., center DeAndre Jordan and two future first-round picks to New York for Porzingis, shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr., wing Courtney Lee and point guard Trey Burke.
The trade opened up enough salary-cap space for the Knicks to pursue two maximum-salary free agents this summer. Hardaway and Lee are owed a combined $31 million next season, while Matthews and Jordan have expiring contracts.
The Mavs deemed Porzingis’ potential to be worth the price, considering him a franchise-caliber player whose game complements Doncic’s. Porzingis, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 draft, was an All-Star last season, when he averaged a career-best 22.7 points as well as 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game before injuring his knee.
“We obviously think Porzingis is a great young talent, similar in many ways to Dirk,” coach Rick Carlisle said Thursday on the Mavs’ flagship station, 103.3 FM ESPN. “This is kind of a Dirk-and-[Steve] Nash type of situation, only these guys are taller.”
Porzingis was evaluated in January by the Knicks’ medical staff, which confirmed his knee is healing well. He recently worked out with a coach on the court for roughly 45 minutes. The workout included Porzingis shooting pull-up 3-pointers and dunking.
Porzingis will have an introductory news conference in Dallas on Monday.
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