Kristaps Porzingis returns, helps Celtics win title; surgery next

Kristaps Porzingis returns, helps Celtics win title; surgery next

Kristaps Porzingis returns, helps Celtics win title; surgery next

ByTIM BONTEMPS

June 18, 2024, 1:09 AM

    BOSTON -- Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis returned to the court for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, playing through a rare left leg injury that he told ESPN will require surgery and will have a recovery process of a "few months."

    Porzingis suffered a torn medial retinaculum allowing dislocation of the posterior tibialis tendon in Game 2 -- an injury the team actually described as "rare" in its news release.

    But after missing Games 3 and 4 in Dallas, he returned to play 16 minutes in Boston's series-deciding 106-88 victory Monday night against the  Dallas Mavericks, scoring 5 points as he spelled center Al Horford off the bench and helped Boston claim its record-setting 18th NBA championship.

    "Of course," Porzingis told ESPN, when asked if he was concerned about making his injury worse by playing on it. "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.'"

    Porzingis, who had missed over five weeks with a calf strain he suffered in Game 4 of Boston's first-round series against the Miami Heat, returned to play well in Games 1 and 2 of the Finals against the Mavericks, who traded him away two-and-a-half years ago in what amounted to a salary dump.

    Porzingis missed Game 3 but was listed as active for Game 4, though Celtics coach Mazzulla said Porzingis was "not quite ready" for game action and would be used only in very specific circumstances.

    Mazzulla said Monday that Porzingis had improved enough to play in Game 5, and the crowd erupted when he checked in for the first time midway through the first quarter.

    "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, and how he got himself to a place where he could play. "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."

    Boston acquired Porzingis a year ago in response to losing in the Eastern Conference finals to the Heat, sending out fan favorite and former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart in the deal. Porzingis went on to average 20.1 points and 7.2 rebounds for the Celtics during the regular season.

    "Man ... it made me realize how much it takes to win a championship," Porzingis told ESPN 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 gonna lie."

    And while Porzingis said he has a lengthy rehab process ahead of him, he said none of that matters in light of winning a title.

    "I don't care," he told ESPN. "I will fix it. This is the most important, and after my injury healing, and all that, it's totally worth it."

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