Washington Wizards believe Porter's future is bright

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 23, 2014 at 6:43 pm •  Published: April 23, 2014
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(c) 2014, The Washington Post.

WASHINGTON — The play, like so many others this season, began with Otto Porter out of sight and out of mind.

Martell Webster had just gathered a steal and tossed the ball ahead to Andre Miller in transition early in the second quarter of the Wizards' April 11 late regular-season game against Orlando. No one seemed to pay any attention to the lanky small forward streaking down the right sideline. Twelve steps later, Porter took flight, grabbing a lob from Miller and throwing down a two-handed dunk to ignite a comeback victory.

When the Wizards selected Porter with the third overall pick in last summer's NBA draft, few would have thought it would take 79 games to produce his first significant highlight. But with injuries derailing his early-season availability and the Wizards' logjam at the small forward spot, Porter spent most of his time on the bench. Yet even as the first two games of Washington's opening-round playoff series against Chicago have rolled on without him, both Porter and the Wizards remain confident in his future with the team.

"This whole year brought things I had never had to deal with," Porter, 20, said following a recent practice. "That was the first time I had a really big injury in my career, of course the first time being at the pro level and my first time not playing that much. But it definitely helped me in ways I never thought it would."

One of the few adjustments Porter didn't have to make was to a new city. The 6-foot-8 swingman spent the previous two years starring for Georgetown on the same Verizon Center floor, suiting up for games about 50 feet away from the Wizards locker room.

Having his former teammates and Georgetown Coach John Thompson III nearby to serve as familiar sounding boards proved especially helpful when Porter injured his hip flexor in September after slipping on a wet spot during a pickup game. Porter had been forced to work his way up the ladder before, first as an under-the-radar prospect out of Scott County Central High in Sikeston, Mo., and then as an unknown-turned-all-American at Georgetown. But this was different. For a month, Porter couldn't even run, forcing him out of critical teaching moments during training camp and through the season's first 18 games.

"It's like the whole world was coming to an end," Porter said. "I was so upset."

Porter remained positive, though, even as pressure swelled from fans familiar with his skills from his Georgetown days and eager to see him follow the same trajectory as the Wizards' last two draft lottery picks, John Wall and Bradley Beal.

"He's pretty even-keeled and a competitor, so there weren't any conversations of Otto down in the dumps or depressed," Thompson said. "He's confident, as am I, in his ability. So it was just a matter of getting back to full strength and working hard so he can help this organization in any way he can."

Finding where — or even if — Porter fit in with the Wizards has often proved daunting. Starting swingman Trevor Ariza, who just hours before Porter was drafted on June 27 had exercised his player option to remain with the team, is having a career year averaging 14.4 points per game and with 180 three-pointers. Meanwhile, the sharpshooting Martell Webster is one of the first players off the bench after signing a new contract last summer.

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