Will Kristaps Porzingis be ready to return for Celtics in Game 1 of NBA Finals?

BOSTON — The biggest question surrounding the Celtics right now — aside from which team they’ll play in the NBA Finals — surrounds the availability of Kristaps Porzingis. Will the big man be back when Game 1 of the NBA Finals arrives next week?

Boston head coach Joe Mazzulla didn’t give a definitive “yes” or “no” on a Porzingis return during his radio interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak and Betrand on Wednesday, saying he wasn’t sure about his availability a week from now. But he did say that Porzingis’ on-court activity has been ramping up over the last week.

“I do know he ramped it up on the court a bit, and he’s working really, really hard,” said Mazzulla. “I know he is getting better and better.”

Porzingis sent out an extremely promising post on X shortly after Mazzulla’s appearance, saying in part, “I’ll be back in line soon. See you in the finals.”

Porzingis has been doing a lot of 1-on-1 work on the practice floor, but his biggest step will be getting back into 5-on-5 action with his teammates. It remains unknown when that will happen.

Porzingis hasn’t played since April 29 when he suffered a calf strain in Game 4 of Boston’s first-round series against the Miami Heat. With Game 1 of the Finals set for Thursday, June 6 in Boston, Porzingis would have just over five weeks of recovery time since the injury if he were to return that evening.

Shams Charania of The Athletic and FanDuel said Tuesday that hurdles still remain for Porzingis before he returns, but there is a lot of optimism that he’ll be on the floor when the Finals tip off against either the Mavericks or the Timberwolves.

“There’s definitely hope. There’s definitely optimism,” Charania relayed on FanDuel TV’s Run It Back. “There are still some hurdles, I’m told, that he has to clear before he can play in Game 1 of the Finals. Of course, there’s hope this next week-plus will give him the time that he needs to ramp up and get ready for that Game 1 next Thursday against likely the Mavericks.

“Porzingis has to make sure he’s 100 percent healthy,” added Charania. “This could, of course, lead to worse injuries if you do end up getting back out on the floor sooner than you’re supposed to. There’s obviously hope the next week and a half he can ramp up and get ready.”

There were rumblings in previous weeks that Porzingis may have been able to return for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but that didn’t happen. More rumblings followed about a Game 4 return a few nights later, but that also didn’t happen. Porzingis was ruled out when the Celtics released their injury report the day before each of those games.

The Celtics, of course, didn’t need Porzingis to pull off a sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the Conference Finals, and Boston is 9-1 this postseason in games that Porzingis was sidelined. But that doesn’t mean they won’t need Porzingis’ rim protection and ability to stretch the floor as the Celtics look to bring home a championship.

At least Porzingis has another week to ramp things up on the floor before the NBA Finals tip off in Boston.

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