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Mavs' Donnie Nelson: Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis Rift 'Is Way Overblown'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 8, 2021

Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson downplayed any friction between Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic as the franchise picks up the pieces from its first-round NBA playoff exit at the hands of the Los Angeles Clipperss.

Nelson said Monday that "their supposed rift, tiff, whatever you want to call it, is way overblown."

Tim MacMahon @espn_macmahon

Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson was asked about the Luka Doncic/Kristaps Porzingis dynamic. His answer: pic.twitter.com/kMXdX4SXfK

Following Dallas' Game 7 loss Sunday, Porzingis alluded to a level of frustration with his role on the team.

"There's a little bit of a mental battle because that's not what I'm used to and where I'm most comfortable," he said. "... Whatever I do, it seems like it's always something, so I just try to be as professional as I can.

ESPN's Tim MacMahon provided some more context, reporting the 2018 All-Star "has been frustrated, often feeling more like an afterthought than a co-star as Doncic dominates the ball and the spotlight."

Even if the dynamic between Porzingis and Doncic is being mischaracterized, the Mavericks might still have a problem on their hands in the form of the 7'3" center.

Porzingis averaged 20.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks and shot 37.6 percent from three-point range during the regular season. During the playoffs, his performance cratered.

Over the seven-game set with the Clippers, the Latvian big man averaged 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds, and he made just 29.6 percent of his threes. According to Basketball Reference, he also had a 16.2 percent usage rate, which was dwarfed by that of Doncic (40.4 percent).

Porzingis is supposed to be the supporting star alongside Doncic, and he was basically a replacement-level player during the most important stretch of the year. That's a big problem when he's owed $65.5 million over the next two seasons and has a $36 million player option in 2023-24. 

Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reported in February the Mavs had "quietly gauged the trade market for Porzingis" ahead of the NBA trade deadline. Team governor Mark Cuban later nipped that rumor in the bud.

But Fischer explained how Porzingis' value at the time may not have been all that high, and a salary-cap specialist suggested he might only net Dallas a lottery-protected first-round pick. The postseason likely did little to help matters.

Attempting to throw a wet blanket on any Porzingis and Doncic-related drama is the only move for Nelson right now, but it doesn't really solve the underlying issue.

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