Boston Celtics

Scal: ‘No way' Porzingis is feeling pain if he's set to play

Kristaps Porzingis was hesitant when asked whether he's feeling 100 percent heading into Game 1.

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Kristaps Porzingis' health is among the keys to a Boston Celtics victory over the Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Finals. So when the C's big man hesitated when asked whether he's feeling 100 percent heading into the series, it set off some alarms.

Porzingis hasn't played since suffering a right calf strain in Game 4 of the Celtics' first-round series vs. the Miami Heat. He's cleared to return for Game 1 of the Finals on Thursday night, but his cautious optimism has left some concerned that his calf may not be completely healed.

If you ask 2008 C's champion and NBC Sports Boston analyst Brian Scalabrine, there's no need to worry about Porzingis' status.

"There's no way he's feeling pain because you don't play when your calf is feeling pain," Scalabrine said on NBC Sports Boston's Live at the Finals special. "So when he pauses and says, 'Am I 100 percent?' there's also no way to know if you're 100 percent until you go out there and play, and you've been off for 40 days. So I get why he's apprehensive about making those disclaimers about his health. He doesn't know, and you don't know until you get out there."

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Fellow '08 champ Eddie House agreed with Scal's assessment of the situation, adding that the Celtics have done all they could to get their prized offseason addition back into playing shape.

"Yeah, that's facts right there," House said in response to Scalabrine. "Especially calf, groin, hamstring, hip flexors, things like that. You feel good until you don't feel good if it's not 100 percent. And the one thing about it is that when we talk about Kristaps Porzingis and being off 40 days. If you're not right in 40 days, you're not gonna get right in 10 days. You know what I mean? So either he's right or he's not right. And he'll know that as soon as he hits the floor, and he'll be able to relay that to the medical staff.

"But I think that they've done everything they can to prepare him to be ready for this moment. And if he gets out there and he's not ready, it's not because they didn't prepare. It's just, he's just not ready at the end of the day. But I think that they're doing everything to test it.

"Let's not sit here and act like all of a sudden he's gonna get thrown into the fire. They've been running 3-on-3s, they've been doing all the small things and the change of directions, the lateral movements to test that calf, the up and down vertical jump, everything that you could be doing to stop the closeouts, to see if it's ready. I think he's ready."

A healthy Porzingis is the X factor for Boston vs. Dallas. If he's 100 percent, he gives the Celtics an answer in the paint against the Mavs' frontcourt tandem of Dereck Lively II and Daniel Gafford. Offensively, he can wreak havoc against Dallas' defenders in the high post and beyond the arc.

How Porzingis fares in the first quarter of Game 1 could set the tone for the rest of the series. If he picks up where he left off, the Mavs will have their hands full trying to keep up with the heavy favorites.

Tip-off for Game 1 is set for 8:30 p.m. ET Thursday at TD Garden. Coverage begins on NBC Sports Boston with Celtics Pregame Live at 7 p.m.

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