BOSTON — The timetable surrounding a Kristaps Porzingis return for the Celtics has been vague since the 7-foot-2 center went down in the first round, but rumors suggest it could occur during the Eastern Conference finals.

“When this series returns to Indiana, I’m told that Porzingis could return as soon as Game 4 on Monday,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday on “NBA Countdown. “Now, the Celtics are certainly not going to rush him. Game 4 on Monday would be about a month from when he went out April 30 against the Heat. Missed the entire Cleveland series with that right calf injury, but he is progressing and there is momentum he will return in this series.”

Porzingis was vital throughout the regular season, averaging 20.1 points — Boston’s third 20-point scorer (behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown) — before suffering a right calf soleus strain in Game 4 against the Heat. Boston’s since held the fort, going 5-1 without its starting center, but as the playoffs progress so does the need for Porzingis to get back on the floor.

Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla has relied on 37-year-old Al Horford to fill the sizing void, which paid off tremendously versus the Cavaliers in Game 5, keeping Luke Kornet as the go-to option B off the bench. Horford turned back the clock with an all-time 22-point, (game-high) 15-rebound double-double in the closeout victory over Cleveland.

Story continues below advertisement

But the difference Porzingis makes when playing alongside Boston’s starters can’t be matched. That’s why the front office threw all its chips, trading Marcus Smart (and more) in exchange for Porzingis in the offseason. New York’s once-unicorn from the 2015 draft became Boston’s missing piece as the Celtics went 43-14 with a healthy Porzingis during the regular season, finishing with a league-best 64 wins before the playoffs commenced.

Ideally, getting Porzingis back up and running during the conference finals would benefit Boston rather than throwing the 28-year-old into the fire of the NBA Finals — if the Celtics advance to face the Timberwolves or Mavericks.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images