DALLAS — Kristaps Porzingis never could escape the shadow of injuries in Dallas after the blockbuster trade that brought the 7-foot-3 Latvian from New York.
The Mavericks are moving on without the “Unicorn.”
Dallas sent Porzingis to the Washington Wizards on Thursday for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans.
The Mavericks also sent a 2022 second-round pick in the deal that was reached not long before the NBA trading deadline and ends the plan to pair Porzingis with fellow European and young star point guard Luka Doncic.
Porzingis has missed the past five games with a right knee injury and has been sidelined for 21 of 55 games this season because of various injuries and a positive COVID-19 test. Porzingis acknowledged he had been traded with a post on Instagram.
“Since day 1 the fans and the city of Dallas welcomed me with open arms and I will always be grateful for that,” Porzingis wrote in a post on Instagram.
Before the trade, Porzingis appeared to be close to a return from his latest knee injury. The Wizards are on the fringe of the playoff race in the bunched-up Eastern Conference. Atlanta, an East finalist last season, holds the last play-in spot at 10th in the conference, followed by the Wizards and Knicks.
“I like KP a lot,” Washington’s Kyle Kuzma said. “When the trade went down, I got on the phone with him and he’s super excited. It’s a great opportunity for him and he’s very excited and he’s got a lot to prove.”
Doncic and Porzingis never established the bond the club hoped would develop when Dallas acquired Porzingis from the Knicks in a seven-player deal with the Knicks before the deadline in 2019.
“He went through a lot with the injuries,” Doncic said after scoring a career-high 51 points in a 112-105 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers a few hours after the trade. “I think this year he was way better. The NBA’s a business. I wish him all the best.”
At the time of the trade, Porzingis was still recovering from surgery for a torn ligament in his left knee not long after he was named an All-Star with the Knicks in 2018. His ability to move and score on the perimeter at his size led to superstar Kevin Durant calling Porzingis the “unicorn.”
Porzingis kept pulling up lame in two-plus seasons with the Mavericks, who signed him to a $158 million, five-year max contract before he ever played a game for them.
Dallas decided not to play Porzingis the rest of the 2018-19 season after the trade even though he had recovered from the injury with the Knicks. The club hoped the extra time would lead to better health. It didn’t.
The longest stretch of consecutive games for Porzingis with the Mavericks was 23, from early in his first season. After the third time he played in a back-to-back, Porzingis missed the next 10 games with a knee injury.
Porzingis never played more than 12 consecutive games the rest of his tenure with Dallas, with issues that included both knees, his back and an ankle along with the 26-year-old’s COVID-19 absence.
“I think it was less about his availability and really more about how do we make the team better,” first-year Dallas general manager Nico Harrison said. “I think if you look at KP’s really knick-knack injuries, if it was the playoffs, he could have played. I don’t think they were a concern.”
Porzingis averaged 20 points and 8.8 rebounds in 134 games with Dallas. The seventh-year player has averaged 18.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for his career.
Dinwiddie started all 44 games he played for the Wizards this season, averaging 12.6 points and 5.8 assists. Although his career 3-point shooting percentage is just 32%, Dinwiddie gives Dallas another scoring option in the backcourt with Tim Hardaway Jr. likely sidelined until the playoffs with a broken foot.
Dinwiddie is in the first year of a $54 million, three-year deal after spending the previous five seasons in Brooklyn. He never seemed to fit with the Wizards
“It’s something that we’ve kind of talked about and tried to figure out for some time. He’s a dynamic player,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “We tried to get him going and keep him aggressive. When he did that, it was tough to keep guys in front of him. … It’s one of those things that you could say it didn’t work.”
Bertans started his career with Dallas rival San Antonio in 2016-17 and was solid as a backup the past two seasons in Washington. But the 6-10 Latvian’s playing time is way down this season, along with his scoring and rebounding averages.
After a significant calf strain ended his season in the playoffs against Philadelphia last season, Bertans has dealt with ankle and foot issues in 2021-22. He has two fully guaranteed years remaining on an $80 million, five-year contract.
Dallas has also requested waivers on center Moses Brown.