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Kristaps Porzingis set to play for Latvia in FIBA World Cup

BOSTON -- Boston fans will get their first look at Kristaps Porzingis with a Celtics jersey on Thursday when the team introduces their big offseason prize. Then, Celtics fans will have to sweat it out in the offseason before the 7-foot-3 big man makes his Boston debut.

That's because Porzingis is set to play for his home country, Latvia, in the FIBA World Cup in August. Celtics fans everywhere are now fighting off painful flashbacks of Danilo Gallinari last summer.

Last offseason, shortly after he signed a team-friendly deal with Boston, Gallinari tore his ACL while playing for Italy in a FIBA World Cup qualifier. That ended the forward's Celtics career before it could even begin, as Gallinari missed the entire 2022-23 season and was traded for Porzingis this summer.

Now, Boston fans will hope that Porzingis can avoid any kind of injury when he suits up for Latvia next month. This is Latvia's first-ever appearance in the FIBA World Cup, and is set to face Lebanon, France, and Canada in Group H in Jakarta. Porzingis and Latvia will play their first game against Lebanon on Aug. 25.

Porzingis dominated the World Cup qualifiers last summer, scoring 22 points to go with 14 rebounds in a win over Turkey before dropping 29 points and 14 rebounds in another win over Great Britain. He shot 15-for-25 from the floor in those two victories, and also added 17 points at the free-throw line.

The Celtics are banking on Porzingis -- whom they traded Marcus Smart for in a three-team deal with the Wizards and the Grizzlies -- to have those kinds of performances on a nightly basis and play a pivotal role alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown next season. His $36 million salary will make him the highest-paid member of the Celtics, and quite an investment for the team.

Porzingis has battled injuries throughout his 10-year NBA career, including a missed season in 2018-19 after he suffered a torn ACL while with the New York Knicks. The most games he's played in a season came his rookie year, when Porzingis played 72 games for the Knicks in 2015-16.

He is coming off a stellar season with the Wizards though, where he played in 65 games and averaged a career-best 23.2 points to go with 8.4 rebounds. Celtics fans are hoping Porzingis can recreate that kind of production in green next season -- and avoid any catastrophe while playing in the World Cup this summer. 

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