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Put some respect on Kristaps Porzingis’ name

Mavericks big man battled through three playoff games with an injured knee

LA Clippers v Dallas Mavericks - Game Three Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks announced on Friday that PF/C Kristaps Porzingis has been diagnosed with a right knee lateral meniscus tear, effectively ending his appearance for the Mavericks in their first round matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers.

While Dallas Mavericks fans are undoubtedly reeling at this revelation, especially in light of the recent NBA-wide game postponments as players work to effect change against social injustices, one part of the Mavericks PR tweet really glared out.

Porzingis is believed to have suffered the meniscus tear during Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Playoffs.

Let that sink in for a bit.

Ever since Kristaps Porzingis was traded to the Mavericks from the New York Knicks, the concern surrounding Porzingis has always centered around his health, especially considering his almost two-year absence from meaningful NBA action.

Having these concerns has always been valid. Someone, regardless of size and age, being out of basketball for that long will give you pause. After Dallas traded for him, the Mavericks shut him down for the remainder of the 2018-2019 season, and it’s about that time that we started seeing a common narrative online.

“Kristaps is soft.”

This narrative promulgated even more during the off-season as fans and detractors alike wondered if Mavericks owner Mark Cuban would indeed offer Porzingis a max deal. Again, wondering if someone who had been out of basketball for that long would be able to make a smooth return, and wondering if he was worth a max deal were both valid concerns.

What wasn’t valid was the “Kristaps is weak” online chants that seemed to be reverberating both from the East Coast, and from within the confines of the Dallas fandom.

The Mavericks did indeed sign Porzingis to a five-year, $158 million contract, and the Mavericks locked up the cornerstone of what they hoped would be an architectural — if not literal — behemoth.

And the “Kristaps will fail because he’ll never recover from the knee” chants reached a crescendo.

To his credit, Porzingis did what he had to do. He rehabbed, worked out diligently, and made sure his fans — and detractors — knew about it via his social media.

In his debut for the Mavericks, Porzingis put up a very respectable 23-points, 4 rebound effort in a 108-100 Dallas win over the Washington Wizards. The buzz around the NBA was that while Porzingis looked rusty, he held up pretty well considering his long hiatus.

The “Kristaps is in bad shape, he’s too soft” brigade didn’t miss a beat. The band played on.

Porzingis continued to improve and work at his craft as the season progressed. He suffered a broken nose during a 32-point, 12 rebound effort against the Memphis Grizzlies. Porzingis came back from the broken nose and notched consecutive 30-point, 5-blocks games to become the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 to do so.

“Kristaps is weak, he won’t come back from the COVID shutdown.” It seemed the detractors had honed in on a new angle in that narrative.

After a four-month hiatus, the Mavericks faced off against the Houston Rockets in the first game of Dallas’ NBA Bubble experience. Porzingis put down a 39-point, 16 rebound effort in a disappointing Dallas loss. And while the Mavericks were vilified online for their late-game woes, Porzingis was contributing.

But the noise continued, even as the Mavericks secured a playoff berth for the first time in four years.

And this is where the rubber meets the road. Porzingis was undoubtedly excited about his first NBA playoff experience. This is why he asked and received a trade away from the Knicks.

Game 1: 14-points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block. (We don’t know when, but it’s here that Porzingis suffered a tear in his right knee meniscus, per Mavs PR)

Game 2: 23-points, 7 rebounds, 1 block.

Game 3: 34-points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block.

All of this with a lateral tear in his meniscus. I wouldn’t ask Porzingis’ detractors to try to understand just how painful a meniscus tear is because they’re too committed to the cause at this point.

But I would ask Dallas fans, and fans of basketball in general, to pause for a minute and think about how much pain Porzingis was obviously in to come out and play — and not just play, but stand out.

The “will he ever come back” concerns fans had before this season, while valid, have been answered, and then some. You have no choice but to appreciate what Kristaps Porzingis has done during this season, especially in light of the unexpected hiatus.

But to continue to push the “Kristaps is weak/soft” narrative now, after seeing him battle it out and give it all he could in the playoffs on essentially one knee, that needs to stop.

You may dislike Porzingis for myriad reasons, but him not being tough enough to return from what was once considered to be a potentially career-ending injury should not be one of those reasons.

Kristaps Porzingis has done nothing but continue to work at his craft and show his mettle.

It’s high time you put some respect on his name.