Celtics' Kristaps Porzingis: 'No ill will' toward Mavericks, Luka Doncic

Stephen A.: Celtics can't win title without Porzingis (2:26)

Stephen A. Smith explains why Kristaps Porzingis is vital to the Celtics' chances of defeating the Mavericks in the NBA Finals. (2:26)

BOSTON -- Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis, who was once expected to be the long-term co-star alongside Luka Doncic in Dallas, was adamant that there is "no ill will" about their tenure with the Mavericks not going as planned as he prepares to face his former team in the NBA Finals.

The Mavs made a blockbuster trade to acquire Porzingis from the New York Knicks in January 2019, midway through Doncic's rookie season -- a deal Dallas will finally pay in full by sending New York the No. 24 pick in this year's draft.

Porzingis, who was recovering from a torn ACL when he was traded and plagued by injuries throughout his Dallas stint, averaged 20.0 points and 8.8 rebounds in 134 games for the Mavs. Dallas decided the duo wasn't a long-term fit and traded Porzingis to the Washington Wizards at the 2022 deadline.

"Not all of it was like not good," Porzingis said of his time in Dallas, which included a pair of first-round playoff exits. "We had some good moments. We had some decent moments, but overall it just didn't work for both sides. It wasn't perfect. But I would say everything -- teammates, locker room -- I know at that time there were some rumors that there was something in the locker room. It was never like that. It was all just noise at the end.

"It just wasn't perfect for us playing together, and it didn't work out. And that's it. There's no ill will, I don't think from their side. For sure, [there is not] from my side. I don't think there should be. It just didn't work out, but I have nothing but love for Dallas and for my teammates and for everybody there."

Porzingis, an All-Star for the Knicks before he was injured, acknowledged during his time in Dallas that it was difficult for him to initially accept playing a secondary role as Doncic quickly ascended to superstardom.

"I don't know why it didn't work out," said Doncic, who has downplayed the discussion about friction in his relationship with Porzingis over the years. "We were still both young. We tried to make it work, but it just didn't work. So we moved on."

Porzingis had hoped that the hiring of Jason Kidd as the head coach before the 2021-22 season would provide him a fresh start in Dallas. However, he struggled with injuries again that season before being sent to Washington along with a second-round pick for guard Spencer Dinwiddie and forward Davis Bertans, a pair of players whose contracts the Wizards wanted to unload. Mavs general manager Nico Harrison cited "depth and flexibility" as his reasoning for the trade at the time.

"As you know, in the business of basketball, there's trades that take place," Kidd said. "We're judged if it works or doesn't work. That's just part of the business. For the short period I had him, I really enjoyed KP. Great, great on the floor, great off the floor. Did everything we asked.

"When you talk about maybe the health, he got hurt. As much as any coach or teammate you want them all to be out there 100 percent at all times. I thought KP did great for us. But the business of basketball, there was a pivot. So, from there things changed."

Porzingis said he will return for Thursday's Game 1 of the NBA Finals after missing the Celtics' past 10 games because of a calf strain. He will be a key contributor to a defense attempting to limit Doncic, who averaged 32.4 points and 8.2 assists per game against the Minnesota Timberwolves' top-ranked defense to earn the Western Conference final MVP.

"He's one of the best players in the league, in the world," Porzingis said. "It will be a tough challenge for us to try to stop him. Just following his career, when he came in the league, he already made a huge impact. Then I had the opportunity to play with him for a couple of years and get to know him and just knowing the type of person he is, the type of player he is, his mindset -- he's a special player. We have a big challenge ahead of us competing against somebody like that."