If the Boston Celtics want to emerge out of the loaded Eastern Conference, they'll need a healthy Kristaps Porzingis.
That's why it was encouraging to see the Celtics big man working out at the team's practice facility Monday after a month-long rehab program to deal with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. And it sounds like Porzingis took another step forward this week.
According to The Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach, Porzingis "took part in his first scrimmage" with the Celtics on Wednesday and "looked good," with "no issues" involving his foot.
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The C's have played it safe with Porzingis this offseason after acquiring him in a June three-team trade that sent Marcus Smart to Memphis. The 28-year-old Latvia native opted to sit out the 2023 FIBA World Cup in August to focus fully on rehabbing his foot, and it appears that choice has paid off.
"Kristaps has been running up and down the court the last few days,” Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens told Himmelsbach on Tuesday. “I thought the progression that his trainers there [in Latvia], our trainers here, and everybody came up with to get him back so that he could avoid anything lingering was a key.
“He feels great. I just literally talked to him on the phone on my way here. He said he feels good.”
Porzingis averaged career highs in points (23.2), rebounds (8.4) and assists (2.7) per game for the Washington Wizards last season while playing in 65 games, his biggest workload since the 2016-17 season. A 7-foot-3 matchup nightmare when healthy, Porzingis has played 65 games or more in just three of his eight NBA seasons and missed the entire 2018-19 season with a torn ACL.
The Celtics are taking a risk with Porzingis' health after inking him to a two-year, $60 million contract extension through 2026, but the reward is high if he can stay on the court. So far, so good for Boston's new big man ahead of training camp, which kicks off next Tuesday.