There were many things I was looking forward to heading into my first media day, but the biggest one was getting to hear from Kristaps Porzingis. He had a rough ending to last season and his name was tossed around quite a bit in the news. I had no idea what to expect, but this was the first time I’d get to hear from him since the start of this new Nico-Kidd era. I’m going to touch on my takeaways from Porzingis’ answers, the question I was able to ask him, my thoughts on Kidd saying Porzingis will start the season at the four, and how I’m feeling about the current state of the Mavs as the season is right around the corner.
When it came time for Porzingis’ media day session, my plan was to focus on his nonverbal feedback. I wanted to take note of his body language; if he looked enthused to be there, if he dodged questions, or if he just looked generally unengaged.
“It’s good to be back,” Porzingis said with a big smile as he sat down to face the media for the first time since the end of last season. He was asked difficult questions about his role last year, if he wanted to come back, and how he felt going into next season. He had lengthy answers which indicated to me that he was giving each question genuine thought. That’s not something a player does that is focused on what lies ahead rather than the present. Porzingis also noted that Kidd told him to come to him if he had any thoughts about how he wants to be used and that they’ll work together to make it happen. Porzingis mentioned that he’s looking forward to posting up and showcasing his versatility, as opposed to last year here where he was “more of just a spacer.”
A specific question
I asked him about how spending the offseason back home in Latvia helped him mentally and what the coach Kidd visit meant to him. He explained that it was nice to be back home and that he was able to put a lot of work in. Porzingis noted that Kidd along with a handful of other front office members going out of their way to come for a visit meant a lot. He also mentioned in response to another question that putting in the hard work this offseason came easy because of how much external noise there was and that he was able to use that as motivation.
At training camp yesterday, Luka posted a picture on Instagram of him, Porzingis, and Tyson Chandler, which I’m sure made every Mavs fan smile. If there’s one thing Luka and Porzingis have in common, it’s that they both love to silence the doubters and let their game do the talking. I’m looking forward to seeing the on-court interactions between Luka and Porzingis, how they’ll play off each other in a more free-flowing system under Kidd, and what looks they’ll set up for each other. If Porzingis feels valued by Kidd and is getting the looks he’s asking for, there’s no reason they can’t be firing on all cylinders on the offensive end.
The Power Forward
Jason Kidd said that Porzingis will start the year at the four, which had a lot of people confused. I’d prefer Bullock to start and Porzingis to be at the five, the top priority this year needs to be getting Porzingis back on track and showing that he’s a valued asset on this team. If that means we get off to a rough start because the starting front court isn’t ideal but he is out there scoring 22 a night, that is a win in the long run. The reality is, while we do have six bigs on this roster, none of them are a great fit next to Porzingis when he is the four.
That is something that can change, but for right now, they must work with what they’ve got. I don’t expect the starting lineup to stay the same throughout the entire season, however I do encourage anyone who has questions about a starting frontcourt of Porzingis and Powell to remember what the biggest priorities are. For those shouting at their computer screens saying that priority number one needs to be winning as many games as possible so we don’t lose Luka, I counter with this: keeping Porzingis happy so that he can be the best version of himself will allow for this team to continue to compete in the playoffs year after year and that is Dallas’ best chance at keeping Luka. Having to address a disgruntled star, move on from the situation for pennies on the dollar, and then restart with someone completely new, is not ideal for anyone.
The best thing Dallas can do is continue to involve everyone, make sure each player feels like they’re valued and that their voices are heard, and take the time to find out which lineups maximize each player’s skillset.
Media day led me to believe that that is exactly what their plans are, and the players all seemed to be on the same page. Training camp has kicked off and I’ve been very encouraged by what I’ve seen there. Tyson’s in the building working with Moses Brown, Brunson is teaching Frank his hesi-move, Reggie and Tim are getting shots up, and Luka is posting pictures with Porzingis. Things are looking up as the season approaches.