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Kristaps Porzingis could return to action Wednesday against the Pelicans

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Carlisle says Porzingis has made “significant, gradual progress.”

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Sacramento Kings Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been 12 days since Dallas Mavericks center Kristaps Porzingis last played in a game. Unfortunately, fans will have to wait a little bit longer before they see him on the court again. He won’t suit up against the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday night. However, his return seems inevitable.

Porzingis could return to game action as early as Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans, according to head coach Rick Carlisle. If he does, it will be the 41st game he’s appeared in this season.

“KP is going to be out tomorrow, but we would like to have him ready to play against New Orleans,” Carlisle said Monday. “[We] just feel that the extra day, particularly with the practice today, is very helpful for him. But again, that’s all subject to how he’s feeling and those kinds of things. He’s done very well in the last 10 days in terms of significant, gradual progress and so that’s a very good sign.”

Porzingis hasn’t appeared in a game since April 29 against the Detroit Pistons. He played just over 20 minutes that night and recorded 11 points and one rebound. He sat out the previous three games with a right ankle sprain.

He’s been inactive for the last six games with what the team lists as right knee soreness. Porzingis doesn’t want to speculate on the specificity of the injury, but he does indicate that his recent troubles began when he hurt his ankle.

“It’s weird because it started with the ankle,” Porzingis said. “Maybe because you limp a little bit with the ankle and now the knee started bothering me a little bit. I’m not sure, you know? I don’t want to give any medical—what I have going on—I leave that to the doctors. I’m just doing my part in making sure I’m healthy, that my legs are strong, and I’m ready to go and that’s it. It is what it is.”

To date, Porzingis has missed 28 of the Mavericks’ 68 games. It’ll be 29 after Tuesday and could reach 30 if he isn’t able to go against the Pelicans on Wednesday. Without question, this hasn’t been an easy season for Porzingis as he’s battled nagging injuries after coming back from surgery last year. Because of that he’s looking forward to finally being able to work on getting his body right when the season ends.

“I look forward to this off-season, really,” Porzingis said. “It’s been a tough year for me. The injury happened in the bubble. No off-season pretty much. I did the surgery a little bit later to get a little bit of rest from the bubble in the long season that we had last year, expecting that the season was going to start in March. So, I started the season late, didn’t have an off season really, didn’t have any pre-season games, practices with the team, jump right in.

“It’s not easy, especially with a condensed schedule like we have this season. We barely have any practices, so I didn’t have any practices either with the team. It’s been a tough year from that aspect, you know, but I try to do my best and make sure that I’m in the best shape possible and healthy and letting the medical staff know whatever is going on and that’s it.”

Both Porzingis and Carlisle say that it is important that he see some game action before the end of the regular season. There’s a number of things that he needs to address in real-time situations before the playoffs begin.

“It’s definitely better for him to get back and get some games under his belt before the playoffs start, no question about that—for conditioning, for chemistry, for rhythm, for things having to do with the system,” Carlisle said. “With him now playing some four, defensively, when he’s guarding the four men, coverage responsibilities are different so it’s important to get those kinds of reps in in game situations as well as practice situations.”

Even though it’s been a long and frustrating season for Porzingis, he knows that the most important thing for him to do is get his body ready and be healthy. It’s a sometimes hard and lonely experience, but it’s what’s best for him and the team for the playoffs and in the long run.

“I have to be healthy when I’m out there,” Porzingis said. “I cannot be not at 100 percent when I’m out there. It’s just putting in a lot of work, which is not fun when you’re by yourself and just doing treatment and working out and lifting. It’s never as fun as being with the team and doing all the activities with the team. That’s when I have to lock in, be a soldier, and do my work to make sure I can be as soon as possible practicing like today with the guys. It’s a good feeling also to get back to being able to play.”