WASHINGTON — The Wizards will be without starting big man Kristaps Porzingis for at least several games, as the team announced Monday. He is now considered week-to-week with his left ankle sprain.
Porzingis, 27, hurt his ankle while landing awkwardly on it during the team’s win over the Magic on Saturday night. He exited the game in the third quarter and did not return.
Porzingis has played in 41 of the Wizards’ 46 games this season with his longest absence being two consecutive games due to a non-COVID illness.
“I think I’m probably holding out a little more hope than most, but he’s responding better than I anticipated,” head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said after Monday’s practice. “We’ll see where it goes in the next day or so and hopefully we’ll have him back sooner than later.”
Porzingis is averaging 22.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game with the Wizards in this second season with the team. Washington acquired him in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks last February.
With Porzingis out, the Wizards will have to rely more on Daniel Gafford, their starting center. Backup big-man Taj Gibson will also likely be elevated in the rotation. They can also go small with Kyle Kuzma or Anthony Gill moving over to the five from the power forward position.
Unseld Jr. acknowledged this could open the door for 21-year-old big man Vernon Carey Jr. A third-year pro, Carey Jr. has been putting up big numbers for the Capital City Go-Go this year. In 14 games, he is averaging 22.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.
“He’s been really good, not only the numbers but how he’s playing,” Unseld Jr. said. “He’s playing with good pace, he’s using his athleticism, his body. He’s stretching the floor a little bit more and he’s doing a better job on defense with his communication.”
If Porzingis misses one week, that will mean a three-game absence. If he is out for two weeks, he would be sidelined for seven games. The Wizards have nine games left until the Feb. 9 trade deadline.
Porzingis was hurt in what was just the third game this season where the Wizards had a fully healthy roster. Three-time All-Star Bradley Beal returned two games ago, as the Wizards have now won two straight. But with Porzingis set to miss some time, they will once again have to find a way to compensate for the loss of a key player.