Who could have seen this coming — besides everyone?
Just over two years removed from tearing an ACL, which sidelined Kristaps Porzingis all of last season, the former Knicks All-Star has shed the rust and resumed playing like one of the most uniquely gifted players the game has ever seen. In Sunday’s Mavericks win at Minnesota, the 24-year-old big man put up 38 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks, four assists and a steal, while shooting 13-for-25 from the field, including 6 of 14 3-pointers.
Porzingis is the only player in NBA history to record at least 35 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and five 3-pointers in a game. He’s done it twice in less than one season in Dallas. He is also the 11th player in league history with at least 38 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks and four assists. He fell just shy of his career-high 40 points, set with the Knicks on Nov. 5, 2017.
“Just doing what I do,” Porzingis said. “I’m not really, like, inventing anything. These are all things I’m capable of doing on both ends of the floor.
“I’ve been myself. It took me a little bit of time to get in shooting rhythm and feel for the game, things like that. And also now, I feel like the team knows where I like to receive the ball, how I like to play. It all takes time. It always takes time to get in rhythm, to get adjusted to playing with these guys here.”
Though Porzingis struggled early in his return from the devastating injury, he’s blossomed since starting at center in February, when he averaged 25.2 points and 10.2 rebounds, while shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers.
“This is a picture of what the future of the five position is going to look like,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “It will be a guy with great length, can shoot long range, can drive it, can pass it, can protect the rim, can rebound, and knows how to play the game.
“You stack it all up, this guy is a great young player.”
Even on one of his best nights, Porzingis believes he should have been better.
“Honestly I don’t even feel like I shot the ball that well,” Porzingis said. “This game has a little bit of a bittersweet feeling for me, you know? I’m happy for the win, but I feel like I missed so many good looks that I could have made it easier for ourselves.”
Having last made the playoffs in 2016, the Mavericks (37-24) have already surpassed their win totals of each of the past three seasons.
“I really like how we’re coming together as a team,” Porzingis said. “We’re having fun on the court, off the court. It’s beautiful. We want to keep that going.”