Few things bond people like a road trip. With a new player like Kristaps Porzingis, the Dallas Mavericks know the value of these experiences. After the world saw how quickly his relationship soured with the Knicks, avoiding making similar mistakes in the early stages of Porzingis’ time as a Maverick is key.
This season he was rarely seen at Knicks games but did make a rare appearance when his friend Luka and his idol Dirk Nowitzki came to town. While in New York at the end of last month, I was told by local media they hadn’t seen Porzingis in sometime. Late last off season, reports surfaced that KP was secretly rehabbing in Spain with Real Madrid. Prior to the trade, Porzingis threatened to rehab in Spain unless the Knicks traded him. This odd relationship is one Dallas hopes to avoid entirely with their new star.
From day one Dallas the Mavericks organization rolled out the red carpet to make sure he feels included despite not being able to play. Rick Carlisle spoke at length before Sunday’s game against Portland about how involved the team would like Porzingis to be going forward this season.
“I would like for him to travel, and he’s very interested in doing that,” Carlisle said. “He wants to be part of the team so I expect that he will. The more he can be around the new team the better; travel situation, situations at home, all of it is significant to me and I think he feels the same way.”
Later in his pregame availability Carlisle emphasized how much Kristaps Porzingis is a part of this team and how important it is to make time to build relationships with him. During games Porzingis sits on the bench with the team, joins in huddles, and does everything else team members do.
The past two summers Rick Carlisle visited both Dennis Smith then Luka Doncic in their respective homes to meet their families and make an effort to get to know the player before they report to summer league or training camp. This summer Carlisle said he spoke with Porzingis about visiting Latvia during a Basketball Without Borders camp this summer to develop a further relationship with the new Maverick.
Before the game against the Rockets in Houston, Porzingis sat in his locker and spoke with any media who approached him for a significant period of time. It was the first time he spoke at length with the media outside of his introductory press conference.
In that moment Porzingis appeared content sitting in his locker next to Dirk and talking about how easy Dallas has made the transition into becoming a Maverick and getting to know his teammates.
“It’s been awesome. They’ve welcomed me with open arms here with this organization. They’ve been ahead of everything even before I needed something it was already taken care of,” Porzingis said. “I’m excited to be around the team seeing how hard guys work, and not just the players but the coaching staff and how well this organization is built.”
After the game Porzingis made plans with his new teammates to show him around Dallas, but mostly to places where Luka wouldn’t be old enough to get past the bouncer. In these short spurts it’s obvious how much of an effort Porzingis and the entire Mavericks organization are putting in to make sure this relationship is healthy and sustainable for the 20 years for which Mark Cuban would like to keep the two together.
The initial worry of Mavericks fans about Porzingis leaving in free agency or taking a qualifying offer to test the open market in 2020 are starting to be assuaged. Early signs in this relationship have been highly positive that it can be long lasting.
With each passing day as a Maverick it gets easier to see Kristaps Porzingis deciding Dallas is the best fit for his future. The most important step in the future of the Dallas Mavericks is securing their second star for many years to come.
Early stages in this relationship should send fans over the moon because of how much difficulty the team has had in the past of pairing stars. Dallas looks to have learned from the past and, if they get it right this time, the Mavericks will be title contenders again before Doncic can rent a car.