WASHINGTON -- Newly acquired big man Kristaps Porzingis is not expected to make his Wizards debut on Saturday night when Washington hosts the Sacramento Kings, both because his physical was not made official in time and because, as he says, he is still waiting to get clearance on the bone bruise in his right knee which forced him to miss his final five games with the Mavericks.
Both of those facts are reminders of a reputation Porzingis carries with him to D.C., one he would like to change. That is, of being injury-prone as after missing the entire 2017-18 season due to a torn ACL, he has only played in about two-thirds of possible games since. This year, he appeared in 34 of Dallas' 55 games before getting dealt to the Wizards at the trade deadline.
"One is staying on the floor consistently. Now that I’m healthy and I’m moving well, that’s the thing I have to prove. I truly believe that my luck hasn’t been the best luck in terms of injuries. A lot of them, if not all of them have been contact injuries. Those you can’t really avoid, 100 percent. I do my part with being in the weight room, making sure my body is right to stay healthy. But you have to have a little bit of luck," Porzingis explained.
Later in his introductory press conference Saturday morning, Porzingis expressed confidence he will be available more often moving forward now that he's with the Wizards. He said he has a good feeling about their medical staff after their initial interactions together.
Porzingis made an attempt to speak it into existence that he will have better health in Washington than he did in Dallas and New York.
"I’m going to take my game to the next level because my body is going to be healthy and that’s it," he said.
Porzingis, 26, arrives in Washington in a trade that sent Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans to Dallas. The Wizards are hoping he can become an ideal complement alongside star guard Bradley Beal, if the latter re-signs with the team this upcoming offseason.
Porzingis is intrigued by their potential together. He mentioned the two-man game, as did head coach Wes Unseld Jr., specifically highlighting their upside in dribble hand-offs and keepers.
Beal is out for the rest of this season due to left wrist surgery. In the meantime, Porzingis will team up with Kyle Kuzma and what is left of the Wizards' roster. He hopes they can have a strong finish to the season.
"The first goal, I would say, is to make at least the play-in tournament and play for a chance to play in the playoffs. I’m excited about that and I’m excited about my next chapter as a part of this organization and this team," Porzingis said.
In addition to staying healthy and helping the team win, Porzingis said he hopes to bring his 3-point percentage up moving forward. He was shooting a career-low 28.3% from long range in Dallas this season. Last year, he knocked down 37.6% of his threes on 6.0 attempts per game. His 3-point shooting should help a Wizards team that ranks last in the NBA in threes made this season.
Porzingis said he was in a hyperbaric chamber in Dallas when he received a call from Mavs executive Nico Harrison. Before he picked up the phone, he knew it was probably a trade given it was the day of the deadline. As for his tenure in Dallas, Porzingis expressed disappointment that he and Luka Doncic as a duo didn't win at the level many expected them to.
"Not what everybody expected, not what I expected, but that’s what it is in this league sometimes. Luka is a great player and I wish him well. I wish him to achieve what he sets to achieve for himself," Porzingis said.
The expectations for Porzingis in D.C. are difficult to gauge at this point. For now, the Wizards just want him to stay on the floor and help them build a winning culture, perhaps one that will entice Beal to stay when it's time for him to decide on his future.