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The Boston Celtics have been without star big man Kristaps Porzingis since Game 4 of their first-round series against the Miami Heat, but he could be back in the fold soon. On Friday, two days after Porzingis pledged to return "soon" on social media, he took part in at least some of Boston's practice, according to coach Joe Mazzulla.

"He's getting better," Mazzulla told reporters. "He's out there shooting. He went through a couple drills in practice, so, progressing well and confident where he's at right now."

Boston will host the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals next Thursday, June 6. Asked if he's confident that Porzingis would be on the court for the opener, Mazzulla was coy.

"I'm confident where he's at on whatever day today is," he said.

More footage of Porzingis getting shots up, via CelticsBlog's Noa Dalzell:

In Porzingis' post, translated from his native Latvian, he wrote, "Thank you to everyone who supports and sympathizes throughout the season. I'll be back in line soon. See you in the finals." He also indicated that he plans to play for the Latvian national team in this summer's Olympic qualifying tournament.

Porzingis played in 57 games for the Celtics during the regular season. He suffered a strained soleus -- one of the two calf muscles -- on April 29 against the Heat. He has been sidelined ever since, with reports at the time indicating a possible return during the Eastern Conference finals that never materialized. On Thursday, Mazzulla told reporters that Porzingis hadn't had any setbacks and was "working really hard to get back."

The Mavericks finished off the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday, which means Porzingis will go up against his former team on the league's biggest stage. He played for Dallas from 2019 until the 2022 trade deadline, at which point it sent him to the Washington Wizards. On the other side, the Mavericks' Kyrie Irving played for Boston from 2017 until 2019 before leaving for the Brooklyn Nets in free agency. 

Despite Porzingis' absence, the Celtics managed to make it through the Eastern Conference mostly unscathed. They went 12-2 against the Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers, though all three teams were missing star players due to injuries for some if not all of their respective series. The Mavericks pose a much greater threat, and having Porzingis is critical. His ability to score at all three levels and protect the basket unlocks the best version of this Boston team.

The Celtics didn't acquire Porzingis for the regular season or even the early rounds of the playoffs, as they have largely taken care of business on those fronts over the past several seasons. They traded for him knowing they'd need him right now. Porzingis is a Celtic for the Finals, and, fortunately, it looks like he'll be back in time to participate.

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