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Will Celtics’ Kristaps Porzingis return from injury for the 2024 NBA Finals vs Mavericks?

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While it remains to be seen whether the Boston Celtics center will be able to return from injury in time for the NBA Finals which start this week, the signs do at present point to the idea that he could in fact be back in the lineup to face the Dallas Mavericks.

Will Kristaps Porzingis return for the NBA Finals?

As they prepare for Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics may be in line for a boost with reports suggesting that Kristaps Porzingis could return to the team sooner rather than later. The 7-foot center has not played since straining his left calf during Game 4 of the Celtics first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat back on April 29th. Of course, one might argue that following an eventual 4-1 victory over the Heat, a dismantling of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round, and a 4-0 sweep of the highly-touted Indiana Pacers in the conference finals, it may be that the Celtics don’t need him.

On the other hand, head coach Joe Mazzulla who declined to give any definitive timeline for Porzingis’ return, was quick to point out the critical importance of the Latvian to the Celtics’ cause. “When KP is at his best, he’s been tremendous for us and we expect that from him and we know he’ll give that to us,” Mazzulla said. As for the man himself, the last time we heard from Porzingis was back on May 4th when he gave some insight into the nature of his injury. “It’s something, it’s not nothing,” he said before admitting that it would indeed take “a little bit of time” to recover fully. What we’ve seen since then was an update that he provided via social media where he stated “I’ll be back in the lineup very soon. See you in the finals.”

So, what do we know about Kristaps Porzingis’ rehab process?

For the moment, the signs appear to be positive, during a session that was open to the media last Friday, Porzingis was seen participating in an extended 3-point shooting drill with assistant coaches and trainers, albeit with a compression sleeve on his left leg. On Saturday, he also participated in a relaxed 5-on-5 game with teammates, something that Mazzulla later spoke to, explaining that Porzingis “did everything the team did.” With that as context, it just may be that the Celtics are about to see the return of not only an important player in the paint but one who actually played for the Mavericks before (2019-22). Incidentally, the Mavericks’ Kyrie Irving is another player who creates a similar narrative in the series, having previously played for the Celtics, a fact that he spoke to this week as well.

OK, but is Kristaps Porzingis really that important?

With an average of 20.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks during the regular season across 57 games, it’s clear that Porzingis has not only been a threat when healthy but on both ends of the floor to boot. Prior to his injury during the Heat series, he was averaging 14.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. While it’s true that the Celtics amassed an impressive 21-4 record over the cumulative 25-game span that he missed due to other niggling injuries, the reality is the big man has been an important cog in Boston’s wheel.

Indeed, that was something that Celtics guard Derrick White spoke to directly where defensive play is concerned. White along with teammate Jrue Holiday is of course an inclusion on the NBA All-Defensive third team. “He does a great job of just making things difficult,” White said. “It’s always nice to know that he’s back there, whether he blocks or he doesn’t block. He makes them think about it. That’s been really great having him on our side, just doing the things he did day in and day out. Once he comes back and gets in the flow I think it’s going to be nice.”

Interestingly, Holiday spoke not so much to Porzingis’ quality, but rather how the Celtics have coped without it, having had to play a series of games without him during the regular season. “I go back to the regular season where sometimes KP was out and Al (Horford) was in and vice versa. We literally went through it before,” Holiday said. “We kind of went through all scenarios before of what could happen or what would happen or whatever. And it kind of shows.” Of course, Holiday also admitted that despite their success without the big man, it would be ideal to have him back ASAP. “KP is one of the best scorers. He’s one of our best rim protectors,” Holiday said. “And I feel like we’re all mature enough to get back in the groove or have him fit right back in whenever he comes back. And we do want KP back. We can’t wait for him to be back and be a part of this on the court.”

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