Tim MacMahonESPN Staff WriterClose
- Joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009
- Covers the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Mavericks
- Appears regularly on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM
DALLAS — Like a defender playing the passing lane, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban pounced to intercept a question intended for Kristaps Porzingis on Monday during an introductory news conference for the four players Dallas acquired in the blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks.
The inquiry was about whether Porzingis, the 23-year-old prodigal talent and 7-foot-3 centerpiece of the trade, plans to sign a long-term deal with the Mavericks when he enters restricted free agency this summer.
“I can answer that for you,” Cuban said. “Yeah, he does.”
Porzingis responded with a laugh. Asked for confirmation he said, “We’re on the same page. Don’t even ask.”
The Mavs made the trade with the belief that Porzingis and 19-year-old rookie sensation Luka Doncic could develop together into the pillars of a perennial championship contender. With Doncic watching from the back of the room, Porzingis expressed excitement about forming a long-term partnership with a playmaker he’s been friends with since they were both playing professionally in Spain.
“I get excited every time I think about it,” Porzingis said. “I really think we can be something special. I think about basketball 24/7, and I really see us being very special on the court and fun to watch, so I’m excited about it.”
The Knicks made Porzingis available in the trade market in large part due to indications from his camp that he did not envision a long-term future in New York and was willing to make a major financial sacrifice this summer in order to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason.
Porzingis still has the option of playing next season on a $4.5 million qualifying offer instead of accepting an offer that can be worth as much as $158 million over five years. The Mavs, however, are confident that Porzingis will play in Dallas for years to come.
“It’s not a concern I have,” Cuban told ESPN after the news conference. “Everything so far, all the conversations so far, have been very positive. Unless it’s something that we don’t expect pops up, hopefully he’ll be a Maverick for the next 20 years.”
The trade for Porzingis, along with shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr., wing Courtney Lee and point guard Trey Burke, cost the Mavs future assets and immediate financial flexibility. Dallas gave up 2017 lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr., two future first-round picks and a pair of veterans with expiring contracts (DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews Jr.) for a foundation piece and three veterans who will probably be rotation players, with Hardaway and Lee due a combined $31 million next season, salary the Knicks wanted to shed.
“We’re rebuilding a championship team here,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “That’s obviously a lot of what this deal is all about.”
President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, who negotiated the trade with the Knicks, described Porzingis and Doncic as players who “are going to put their own signatures on their positions,” much like Dirk Nowitzki has done in Dallas for the last two decades.
“This is one of the most exciting times I think that I’ve ever been a part of, having two young players of their caliber for our fans to watch and improve game by game,” Nelson said.
Mavs fans will have to patiently wait to watch Porzingis play with Doncic. As Cuban told ESPN last week, the Mavs expect Porzingis to sit out the rest of the season as he continues to rehabilitate the torn ACL in his left knee that he suffered a year ago.
Porzingis said sitting out this season has always been the plan, and he will remain patient despite saying he feels “bouncy” and is excited to get back on the court as soon as possible. The Mavs’ medical staff and team management will consult with Porzingis’ camp to come up with a schedule to ramp up his basketball activity to include live practice action in the coming weeks, but barring a change of plans, he will not make his Dallas debut until the 2019-20 season opener.
“I feel great, feel great, but as I said, we’re taking our time,” Porzingis said. “There’s no rush. I’ve been patient this whole time, and I’m going to keep staying patient, which is one of the hardest things for me to do. We’re going to make the right decisions.”
Porzingis said there has been “a good vibe” throughout the Mavs organization since he arrived in Dallas, which had not been the case for much of his time with the Knicks, a situation he declined to discuss in any detail on Monday.
“Every relationship takes time to build a relationship,” Porzingis said. “So far, so good. It’s been two days here and they welcome me with open arms, making everything as easy as possible for me just to focus on basketball and rehab and coming back strong and being at my best. That’s what you look for in an organization.”