Thursday, June 20, 2024

Kristaps Porzingis went against Celtics' medical staff to play in Game 5

Kristaps Porzingis is an NBA champion, after helping lead the Celtics past the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 Monday night at TD Garden.

The seven-footer almost didn't play in the team's 106-88 blowout victory to secure Boston's 18th NBA title, infact Porzingis was pretty much a game-time decision before finishing with five points in 16 minutes off the bench.
"I was like, I don't know how I'm going to play, if I'm going to play," Porzingis said in his postgame presser. "But my mindset was always, I'm going to try to find a way how I can manage this.
"And, yeah, somehow I got it going for this game. A lot of it was for sure like the adrenaline from just playing at the Garden and playing in front of our fans and having that opportunity to close it out. And, man, I got it going."
After missing Game 3 and 4 due to a "rare leg injury" that also effects his left ankle, Porzingis could't pass up an opportunity to play in a potential close-out game at home no matter how small of chance there was to contribute on the court.

But according to head coach Joe Mazzulla, Porzingis went against the advice of the C's medical staff in order to play in what turned out the last game of the season -- resulting in his first championship.
"It was like, 'We don't know how long this series is going to go on for, so let's save him from himself. He's trying to play, so let's see if he can get through a game or two,'" Mazzulla said of Porzingis on a recent episode of "Pardon My Take" Podcast. "When it was Game 5 at home it was like, 'Hey, this might be it; I gotta be out there.'
"So he was like, 'Hey, I'm playing.' So he overrode the medical team there and was like, I'm playing. So credit to him."
Porzingis missed 10 games this postseason prior to the NBA Finals with a soleus strain in his right calf, before making an emphatic return in Game 1 and followed it up with another setback in the third quarter of Game 2 -- that led to missing two more outings, while he was technically cleared to play before the Celtics' blowout loss in Game 4.
"If we were winning, I would’ve put him in the game for a minute or two," Mazzulla said. "Just because he sacrificed his whole career to get to this point. To not be a part of it would've devastated him."
Still, Porzingis admitted that even though he was "cleared to play" in Game 5, he'll need off-season surgery to repair a torn medial retinaculum -- which forced a dislocation of the posterior tibialis tendon -- and the recovery process will take a "few months."

When asked if he believed playing on the injury could have made it worse, Porzingis didn't hesitate to answer that he was most definitely concerned.
Of course," Porzingis said. "I think something could have happened, for sure, especially compensating now on the other leg now, which I just came back from. "There was definitely some added risk, but I didn't care. I was like, 'I want to give everything I can and then fix it after if I need to.'"
Mazzulla said he thought Porzingis had made enough improvements to play in Game 5, as the Garden crowd erupted when the veteran big man checked in.
"Since last game, I've been thinking ... 'How can I get my body ready for next game?'" Porzingis said of his mindset entering Game 5. "Like, no matter how it is. And today I was like, 'I'm going to try everything possible to get out there.'

"So from this morning, I was preparing myself that I will go out there. And, yeah, the medical staff was ... unbelievable support for me and got me back out there somehow. ... I'm super thankful for them. ... I gave everything I could.

"And, man, it feels great to be a champion."
Still, Porzingis had to gut it out through pain to be a part of Game 5, even with surgery already scheduled to correct his ankle in the upcoming weeks.
"He had a serious, serious injury," Mazzulla said. "He worked his ass off to get back, and what he brought for us in Game 5 was unbelievable and really led to winning. We have a guy that -- in his career -- has been through a lot, and sacrificed a lot. You want him to be a part of it."
In any case, it's safe to assume that Porzingis' debut season in Boston was indeed a success after being dealt last summer for fan-favorite Marcus Smart. Despite some nagging injuries, Porzingis finished his 2023-24 campaign averaging 20.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest.
"Man ... It made me realize how much it takes to win a championship," Porzingis said of the trade. "I knew once I signed here this was the goal, and everybody here had that vision, and man ... We did it. It's even hard to put into words right now.

"But it feels amazing to win a championship. I'm not going to lie."
As for the rehab process on the left leg and ankle, Porzingis understands what lies ahead, but for now he just wants to celebrate with his teammates winning an NBA title -- which is the only thing on his mind right now.
"I don't care," he said. "I will fix it. This is the most important, and after my injury healing, and all that, it's totally worth it."

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of The Assiciated Press

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