BOSTON — Kristaps Porzingis traveled with the Celtics to Indiana on Monday without much hope to play. If he could’ve, he would’ve tried, he reflected two days later at practice. Instead, the player perhaps most excited for the league’s In-Season Tournament considering his overseas experience with similar competition watched a loss from the sideline short of his potential return in Las Vegas.
“Everybody was upset and mad at ourselves for not getting it done. Me especially. Not being able to help out there, it hurt, especially knowing the vision we had,” Porzingis said. “This is how it goes and that’s it. We’ll be back.”
Porzingis (calf) now expects to return on Friday against his former Knicks, who also lost the In-Season quarterfinals against the Knicks. He missed four games before practicing for the first time since suffering the low-grade strain against Orlando. Porzingis practiced in full then participated in a full-court scrimmage against Neemias Queta, Celtics bench players and coaches. He moved comfortably and hit shots inside and out, wearing a long black sleeve on his left calf.
The Celtics’ medical staff will evaluate how he responds to Wednesday’s practice and chart a path to his return. Porzingis hopes to avoid a minute limitation, preferring to play without one, but he’ll accept whatever the staff deems best for an injury he previously said requires cautiousness. Porzingis never previously dealt with this specific calf injury, and wanted to play through it initially against the Magic, but both he and the staff decided to play the long game.
“Jrue (Holiday)’s good. He went through practice today and seemed to be fine,” Joe Mazzulla said. “K.P. went up and down a little bit today, we’ll see how he responds tomorrow, but he’s progressed really well and we expect him to be ready … he looked good out there today.”
Porzingis’ return comes at a needed time for a stagnating Celtics offense that fell to ninth in offensive rating following nine games where they turned the ball over, struggled to generate free throws and shot under 36% from three. Boston committed turnovers on 15.5% of its possessions over that stretch, 25th in the league, which Mazzulla blamed on decision-making in transition and playing five-on-five in the half court. The Celtics focused on reads and screening in practice on Wednesday after losing the turnover battle 18-6 to Indiana.
After the practice opened to the media, Porzingis played alongside Svi Mykhailiuk, Dalano Banton and big men coaches Amile Jefferson and DJ MacLeay against Oshae Brissett, Lamar Stevens, Phil Pressey, Jermaine Bucknor and Queta. Porzingis hit all three triples he attempted, converted a driving layup and sunk a pair of post hooks over Queta.
“We have a lot of room to grow,” Porzingis said. “That’s one thing I see for sure. I think we all know that and that’s why we’re here working and getting better. We have really good moments, and then we have some moments that we can clean up and really lock in, and we’ll get there. It’s early in the season, 20 games in … consistency throughout the game, we’re getting better at that. Of course, like any team, there are some slip-ups throughout the game … this is not just us, it’s always like that, but you strive for perfection, for a perfect game, everybody’s locked in for 48 minutes, no turnovers, make every shot … because of the talent that we have, we’re already playing good basketball, but we believe we can achieve many levels (higher).”