Inside Kristaps Porzingis's Long Road to the NBA Finals

Dallas traded him to the Washington Wizards, where he shined across two seasons without drawing significant attention—and rebuilt his post game by mostly going back to the basics. He developed a sweep-through effective at drawing fouls and began focusing on turning and shooting over shorter defenders: almost everyone’s shorter than Porzingis. Most importantly, he was able to do it while mostly staying healthy: “It was a mix of me finding that confidence, but also working and perfecting my post-up game, taking some things away that weren’t as effective, and adding some more of the things I was effective at.”

At least one team noticed: his final Wizards game came against the Boston Celtics, and his 32-point performance convinced them to acquire him in a proposed trade that seemed to fall apart hours before Porzingis’ midnight deadline to become a free agent in July. Nevertheless he woke up a Celtic—and a nervous one, at that, with Boston fans conflicted by the price (longtime fan favorite Marcus Smart and others) required to land him.

“I had better financial contracts available, or an offer, but Boston is what I wanted,” Porzingis told GQ. “If the trade didn’t go through, I would’ve ended up somewhere else. It was a crazy day, crazy night and I went to sleep, because I was in a different time zone and then finally, I woke up and had a bunch of calls and a bunch of messages that I got traded to Boston, and obviously, I was ecstatic.”

Shortly after arriving in Boston, Porzingis agreed to a two-year extension, and quickly began winning the city over. He showed up in his collection of vintage Mercedes, stepping out in suits. On offense, he served as a release valve for the most talented roster he’d ever played with, and provided plenty of protection at the rim. And while his time in Dallas was dogged by rumors that he didn’t get along with Luka Doncic, he went out of his way to bond with his new teammates in Boston.He built a strong relationship with longtime Celtic Jaylen Brown, with the two living in the same building, carpooling to the arena, and sitting next to each other on planes. They grew so close that head coach Joe Mazzulla began referring to them as “Cookies and Cream.”

Porzingis left behind a cohort of admiring younger teammates in Washington, guard Corey Kispert and forward Deni Avdija among them. Former Wizards center Daniel Gafford, who’s starting opposite of Porzingis in the Finals, remembered the way Porzingis would push him in practice You’d crawl into his airspace, Gafford recalled, and still give up a basket.

Kispert was taken with his game, too, and his demeanor after hearing about Porzingis’ Dallas tenure. “I remember him being a lot taller than I thought he was,” Kispert told GQ. “I was shocked at how polished his game was and then, really humble, outgoing and sociable guy … always has something to say, always has jokes. I didn’t really expect that out of him, to be honest.”

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top