Kristaps Porzingis apparently isn't happy with his role on the Dallas Mavericks. The Latvian player arrived in Dallas in 2019 to help Luka Doncic lead this team to play for important things.
Things haven't clicked for them so far due to several reasons. They have different personalities, which makes things difficult for them and their chemistry. Following the Mavs' first-round elimination at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers, details have surfaced about Porzingis' relationship with Luka.
According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, Kristaps is still trying to figure things out. Unfortunately, this season wasn't the best for him after playing only 43 games.
Doncic has certainly held up his end of that deal. At age 22, he'll soon become a two-time All-NBA selection, and he just averaged 35.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 10.3 assists in the second playoff series of his career.But that happened in a losing effort, as the Dallas Mavericks fell to the LA Clippers in a seven-game series in which one of the most prominent storylines was how little Dallas relied on Porzingis, who has battled injuries and adapted to a secondary role over the past two seasons. Porzingis averaged 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds, often utilized offensively essentially as a decoy while Doncic carved up a Clippers defense designed to slow him down.
The Mavericks are obviously Doncic's franchise. But one of the biggest questions for the Mavs moving forward is how Porzingis fits into the picture.
"Good question," Porzingis said after Game 7, pausing to collect his thoughts. "How do I feel? I mean, I'm good. I tried to put in the work, tried to work hard. I do my part, listen to the coaches, what I'm asked to do, and that's it.
"I try to keep it simple for myself, so I'm not overthinking, and I try to focus on what I can control. That's being a better basketball player, going into the offseason hungry. I want to get better physically [and] on the basketball court. I'm going to put that work in to get better, and then the rest of the stuff will resolve itself."
MacMahon adds that the big man isn't happy with Luka Doncic's domination of the ball. Moreover, he sent cryptic messages about this situation more than once.
If Porzingis isn't a championship-caliber sidekick -- and he isn't likely to be a ticket to one in the trade market -- it's hard to see how the Mavs get a second star in the near future. The Mavs plotted to have the salary-cap space to chase one this summer, but the free-agency class has weakened considerably, with several stars signing an extension with their current team. And signing any big-money free agent could come at the cost of Tim Hardaway Jr. Considered a salary dump in the Porzingis deal, Hardaway had an inspired 2021 postseason (averaging 18 points on 45.8% shooting from deep) and emerged as an essential player for the Mavs.
Then there are questions about the chemistry between Doncic and Porzingis. The Mavs' franchise cornerstones admittedly aren't friends, a distant dynamic that team owner Mark Cuban has compared to the early stages of the partnership between Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, which ultimately produced two NBA Finals appearances and a championship.
But Porzingis has been frustrated, often feeling more like an afterthought than a co-star as Doncic dominates the ball and the spotlight, sources told ESPN. Porzingis frequently made thinly veiled references during his postgame media availabilities, such as saying the "ball actually moved tonight" after high-scoring performances or stating that the offense didn't involve him on low-scoring nights.
They reportedly tried to work things out, but none of that resulted. Their communication on the court was almost non-existent, and Porzingis didn't hide that he and Luka aren't close friends.
A lack of on-court interaction between Doncic and Porzingis, who rarely high-five or communicate directly to each other, has become apparent. Asked directly about it on April 8 after a win over the Milwaukee Bucks, Porzingis made no attempt to downplay the awkwardness.
"Yeah, we're trying to play together and help each other," Porzingis said. "We want to win. At the end, we all want to win here -- and that's it. We have to keep playing and keep playing together and keep playing well and help each other."
The Dallas Mavericks are entering an offseason that will present several questions for them. As usual, Luka Doncic played great this campaign, leading his team to the 5th seed in the Western Conference.
However, once the playoffs arrived, Luka was on a one-man mission against the Clippers. Sure, the Mavericks played 7 games against the Californians, but fans always sensed that Doncic was on his own during this series.
Porzingis was the biggest absence of this series; he couldn't help Doncic lead the Mavs to the second round. Doncic missed a legit sidekick after creating 77 points in Game 7 of the series, the most ever by a player in these games.
Something must change for this team. Dallas has a superstar in Luka, but they won't reach the NBA Finals soon if he doesn't have the right help.