Posts Tagged ‘Otto Porter’

Wizards’ culture shift in full swing


VIDEO: Glen Rice Jr. ties the game with a 3-pointer from the corner for the Washington Wizards

LAS VEGAS — That breakthrough season and playoff run was just the beginning for the Washington Wizards.

That flash we saw from the John Wall and Bradley Beal-led Wizards in the Eastern Conference semifinals is still going strong into both free agency and here in the Samsung NBA Summer League, where youngsters like Glen Rice Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. are busy doing work with their veteran peers keeping a watchful eye.

Wall and Beal were in attendance at the Thomas and Mack Center Saturday night when Rice went off for 36 points in a triple-overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs. Veteran free agent Al Harrington is working the sidelines as a volunteer assistant under Wizards assistant Sam Cassell, keeping his finger on the pulse of a team whose culture shift is clearly in full swing after years of building to this point.

“We’re trying to get our hands on that trophy,” a smiling Harrington said after the win over the Spurs. “It’s just a good vibe all around since the season ended. All of our guys, the young guys and the older guys, are grinding and trying to get to that next level. Everybody recognizes the opportunity that is staring us in the face and we have to be ready. Everybody has to be ready.”

In a summer that began with the Wizards making the first big splash by keeping free-agent center Marcin Gortat on $60 million deal, the hits have kept on coming for this crew. Trevor Ariza and Trevor Booker departed in free agency, but  Wizards boss Ernie Grunfeld went to work and rebounded by acquiring former Finals MVP Paul Pierce on a two-yer deal and veteran big men Kris Humprhies and DeJuan Blair in sign-and-trade deals to bolster the bench.

And for anyone dismissing the moves — the Pierce deal in particular, due to the mileage Pierce has piled up over the course of his stellar career — his coach in Brooklyn last season, believes the Wizards have taken a major step forward this summer with the acquisition of these veterans.

“Washington got better,” Kidd told reporters here last week. “You’ve got a veteran guy who understands what it means to be a professional, comes to work every day and understand what it takes to win a championship. … He won’t have any problems [fitting with the Wizards]. He’ll be fine.”

The Wizards will be, too, based on the busy work they have done this summer. Teams either get better or worse with their offseason work. Staying the course, for anyone other than the champion Spurs, simply doesn’t work.

“It’s just a matter of the process of getting better,” Kidd said. “You see that with Gortat coming back. The backcourt is very talented. So they lose a player, a piece, but they’re not afraid to go out and get a player that can help them. They’re going to be one of the top teams in the East.”

That’s the plan. Harrington said that was the vision of all involved when the season ended. They felt like they let the Pacers off the hook in the playoffs. “Trust me, it won’t happen again,” he said. “Our guys are better now because of what we learned about ourselves in that series.”

LeBron James heading home to Cleveland leaves a void at the top of the Southeast Division. And much like the work the Wizards’ summer league squad is putting in to capture top honors, when the regular season begins the varsity crew will battle for the No. 1 spot with the Heat, Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets.

“It’s there for the taking,” Harrington said. “You see the way we are working now in the middle of the summer. We changed the culture. And now we’re feeding the beast, making sure everybody knows what goes on when the lights come on in the regular season. We need [Rice Jr.] and Otto ready to go from the start. Our depth is going to be our strength. It’s go time from the first day of training camp.”

Wizards sign Pierce, think Durant in 2016?

VIDEO: Pierce leaves Brooklyn for DC

LAS VEGAS – They’re signing Paul Pierce but thinking Kevin Durant.

If the Washington Wizards’ decision to budgetarily hold the line on Trevor Ariza Saturday didn’t tip their hand on Durant ambitions in the summer of 2016, their move to land Pierce in free agency later in the day sure did.

Signing Pierce to a two-year, $10 million deal, a move reported by multiple outlets, looks like a potentially perfect maneuver to plug the hole in Washington’s starting lineup opened up by Ariza’s departure for the Houston Rockets. The longtime Celtics and one-year Nets star might not have a lot left in the tank – he averaged 13.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 28 minutes for Brooklyn – but he might not be asked to do too much for the Wizards.

That club’s backcourt, John Wall and Bradley Beal, drive the offense and second-year forward Otto Porter already is being counted on to pick up much of Ariza’s slack. Pierce can ease Porter’s transition – the No. 3 pick in 2013, Porter played sparingly as a rookie – while providing leadership among the youngish team.

The Wizards want Porter to flourish, but that doesn’t mean they won’t keep their options open should Durant decide to weigh his options beyond Oklahoma City in two years. Given LeBron James‘ decision announced Friday to return to Cleveland, fans in Washington and team management might try to pitch Durant – a DC native – on a similar homecoming. As laid out by CSNWashington.com:

But make no mistake, this isn’t conjecture anymore. It’s real. The hiring of David Adkins, who coached Durant in high school, from the University of Maryland’s women’s team as assistant coach to player development for the Wizards this past week isn’t a coincidence.

The building blocks are being put in place now. Ariza is off the books and Porter, who is playing on a rookie scale contract, is a much cheaper option. Nene, who will make $26 million for the next two seasons, will be off the books as well.

So what had been whispered or at least kept to a low roar evolved into some full-blown rumbling Saturday.

Wizards need Porter to plug Ariza hole


VIDEO: Otto Porter scores 25 points in the Wizards’ opening Summer League match

LAS VEGAS – Normally, Otto Porter‘s performance in his summer league debut Saturday would have been ripe for superlatives: 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting in 28 minutes, seven rebounds and three assists.

Given its timing, however, and the situation in which his Washington Wizards team suddenly found itself, a request was more in order:

More, please.

Come to think of it, the Wizards might be inclined to drop the “please” and go with a straight demand.

Porter is due and, with the loss of forward Trevor Ariza as a free agent to the Houston Rockets – effectively and finally, during the very hours Porter was on the floor at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday afternoon – Washington needs him. Now.

“I mean, hey, the door opens up,” Porter said. “He [Ariza] had a tremendous year last year. Now guys are moving on and stuff, it’s time for people to step up and fill those shoes.

“This is just the beginning of it … But I’m definitely feel I’m gonna build on today’s game.”

Losing Ariza hits the Wizards hard for a couple of reasons. First, according to multiple reports, the four-year, $32 million deal he signed with Houston is no better, on an annual basis, than what Washington had been offering. Turns out, Texas’ absence of a state income tax was a selling point worth a couple of million dollars, net, in Ariza’s pocket.

The 10-year-veteran also had probably the best season of his career. Ariza, 29, averaged 14.4 points and 6.2 rebounds, hit 40.7 percent of his 3-pointers. He was a defensive wet blanket when thrown on the opponents’ most dangerous wing scorers. And he provided some helpful leadership for the team’s young talent, from backcourt mates John Wall and Bradley Beal to Porter.

That’s why the Wizards had made re-signing Ariza, along with center Marcin Gortat (who did re-up), such a priority. It wanted to keep intact the core and maintain the momentum of the budding East contender that pushed Indiana to six games in the conference finals.

“We’ll be all right,” coach Randy Wittman said, unconvincingly, on his way out of the arena, with the news of Ariza’s exit still washing over the Wiz.

The move hurts even more because Martell Webster, a backup last year, is sidelined for three to six months after back surgery. And the Wizards’ options to add a replacement is limited both by the salary cap (no Luol Deng, for instance) and the shrinking list of available fill-ins.

Even with one Washington media outlet suggesting that this all might set up the Wizards financially for a run at D.C.-born Kevin Durant when he becomes free agent in 2016, that’s two seasons away with zero guarantees.

That Ariza will be missed as a solid teammate and even mentor is just a, er, bonus.

“To have him gone, he taught me so much,” Porter said, “especially on offense and defense. Being there, showing me the right things, the ins and outs. Now I’ve got to put ‘em to use.”

Ya think? Porter had one of the most disappointing rookie seasons of anyone drafted so high – the No. 3 pick overall – in recent NBA memory. He appeared in only 37 games, averaging 2.1 points in 8.6 minutes while shooting 36.3 percent.

His problems began almost immediately with a thigh strain that curtailed his summer league work, followed by a hip injury that messed up his training camp and kept him inactive till December. Porter was drafted after two years at Georgetown – with multiple scouts claiming he was a perfect fit and ready to help – with the idea he would replace Ariza.

Well, now is his chance. More, please.

These Draft Moves Made The Most Impact

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. – These five Draft decisions that will have the greatest impact:

1. Jrue Holiday and a 2013 second-round pick to the Pelicans, Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-rounder to the 76ers

It’s No. 1 by a wide margin, too, swaying the fortunes not only of two teams, but two conferences. Philadelphia is out of the playoff business for a while after finishing all of four games out in 2012-13 despite Andrew Bynum on the sidelines and coach Doug Collins heading for the exit. Instead of an All-Star at point guard and the chance to use the No. 11 pick Thursday night for a big to either replace the unrestricted free-agent Bynum or help at power forward — perhaps by drafting Steven Adams, Kelly Olynyk or Lucas Nogueira — the Sixers have Noel as a rookie, who does not expect to play until around Christmas because of a knee injury. The Sixers also have point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who was selected with the 11th pick.

The first-rounder next year, in a draft that projects as much more stacked than the 2013 class without a star presence, is a nice get for the 76ers, though. It is protected, depending on the report, either through three or through five.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, take a significant step forward with the addition of the point guard they had been lacking. Austin Rivers, the 2012 lottery pick, is better suited as a combo guard anyway and now is part of the Holiday-Eric Gordon pairing that will headline one of the best backcourts in the league if Gordon stays healthy. Anthony Davis remains a potential star of the future at power forward.

2. Wizards select Otto Porter at No. 3

It was the predictable call since 15 seconds after the lottery, and it was the right call. It was the call, more specifically, that vaults Washington into playoff mode.

The Wizards were already one of the best teams in the East the second half of last season, once John Wall got healthy and even with an early end to the rookie season of Bradley Beal because of injury. Now, with the position of need addressed Thursday, they have Wall at point guard, Beal at shooting guard, Porter at small forward and Nene and Emeka Okafor at power forward and center. That works.

Porter isn’t the difference maker, but he is the ideal fit in the same way he would have been a reasonable choice for Cleveland at No. 1: he is capable of stepping into the NBA now, he helps the spot the Wizards needed and he’s an ideal complementary player who will make valuable contributions to Wall and Beal’s continued rise. Porter will defend, pass, rebound and shoot with range. The things that get a team to the playoffs.

3. Bucks select Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 15

It’s not that Milwaukee went small forward four days before three guards — Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick (unrestricted) and Brandon Jennings (restricted) — hit free agency. Other teams steered away from Dennis Schroeder, Shane Larkin, Tony Snell and others. And it’s not that Milwaukee saw into the future with a unique opportunity for a 6-foot-9 potential point forward with a good feel for the game despite little experience in Greece and even less against anything close to the equivalent of Division I competition in U.S. colleges.

It’s that the Bucks don’t have what Antetokounmpo needs more than anything: time. He has to get stronger, adjust to the physical nature and speed of the game here and develop a jumper. One scout who saw him, asked how long before Antetokounmpo makes an impact in the NBA, said, “Three, four years. Maybe five.” Others think it’s a lot shorter than that, but that still means two years.

If he contributes in 2013-14, the vast majority of front offices will be surprised. Meanwhile, the Bucks need to stay in the playoff picture, not build something for the future. They are about now and he isn’t.

4. Trail Blazers select C.J. McCollum at 10, Allen Crabbe at 31 and Jeff Withey at 39

This is a consolation prize? Portland missed on the dream Draft-night outcome of trading for a veteran center, yet it still addressed a major needs. With three picks capable of contributing — yes, even the second-rounders — the Blazers made a significant step toward toward erasing their depth issues last season.

McCollum, who has spent the pre-Draft process comparing himself to Damian Lillard as a mid-major product trying to prove he can be a point guard and not just a scorer, now works behind Lillard. And maybe with him — both can play off the ball. Crabbe is a shooting specialist who was getting looks from teams in the teens. Withey is a value find at 39, an experienced shot-blocking center who should be able to play right away and very realistically could have a career as a backup despite being a second-rounder.

5. Mavericks trade down twice

It’s not about what they got. It’s about what they didn’t get. A larger payroll.

Shane Larkin, whom Dallas got in a swap with Atlanta, is as the possible point guard of the future. Possible because there is no such thing as roster certainty heading into this critical free-agent summer.

By starting with the 13th pick and trading with the Celtics to No. 16 and then trading with the Hawks to end up at 18 and taking Larkin, the Mavericks saved $1.09 million in rookie-scale salary. That creates more cap space. Dwight Howard likes cap space.

Bennett Surprise No. 1, Noel Falls To Sixth In Craziest Top Of Draft In Years





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – So much for all of those mock drafts that had Nerlens Noel as the consensus No. 1 pick.

Noel didn’t land anywhere near the top spot in Thursday night’s NBA Draft. Anthony Bennett of UNLV was the stunner No. 1 pick — only Hall of Famer Sam Smith of Bulls.com had Bennett pegged for the top spot heading into the festivities. Noel’s upside simply could not match the NBA readiness of a rugged power forward like Bennett, who is viewed by many insiders as the one player in this Draft class who can make an immediate impact for a team trying to transition from the lottery to the playoffs.

Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, Cody Zeller and Alex Len all came off the board before Noel.

It wasn’t until the sixth pick that Noel was picked, going to the New Orleans Pelicans where it was assumed he would form a wicked shot-blocking duo with another former Kentucky Wildcat, second-year forward Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 Draft. He even bragged about the block party he and Davis would throw in the Big Easy.

That was minutes before word spread that the Pelicans were moving Noel to Philadelphia for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and a first-round pick in the 2014 Draft (a trade that has not yet been confirmed).

The deal makes sense for Pelicans, who have no need for two slender power forwards who will not be able to hold down the middle as undersized centers. Noel’s drop came out of nowhere and no doubt had to do with concerns about the knee he’s rehabbing, the one that cost him most of his lone season at Kentucky.

But as we’ve seen many times before, once a player projected to go high in the Draft starts dropping, other teams start running away from that player for fear of something they’ve missed in their own vetting process.

This has been easily the craziest top 10 of a NBA Draft in recent memory, complete with the No. 7 pick being Ben McLemore, a player once thought to be a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick, and No. 8 pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope joining Bennett in crashing the top of the lottery on Draft night after being further down the list on most mock drafts heading into the night.

The craziness at the top makes things much more interesting for the rest of the first round, since someone who was projected to go higher will no doubt drop into someone’s lap in the bottom half of the lottery and beyond.


Porter The Right Choice For Cavaliers

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NEW YORK – Say it out loud. Write it in Comic Sans.

Georgetown small forward Otto Porter is the best fit for the Cavaliers with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.

He isn’t the popular choice. He isn’t the best prospect in the wide-open field, a title that belongs to Kentucky power forward Nerlens Noel or Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore, according to a consensus of front offices, with Maryland center Alex Len also in the conversation. By that assessment, he isn’t even the best prospect coming out of the D.C. area.

But Porter is the best call.

He knows because he has studied it. He has looked at the Cavaliers roster and come to the accurate conclusion. Rising star Kyrie Irving at the point, Dion Waiters at shooting guard, Tristan Thompson heading toward averaging double-digit rebounds at power forward leaves one spot in particular.

“They’re missing a piece,” Porter said Wednesday at a Midtown hotel during a media session with top prospects prior to the draft Thursday night in Brooklyn. “I feel like that’s where I come into play.”

The Cavaliers could also be missing a starting center, depending on the development of Tyler Zeller after a rookie season of 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in 25.4 minutes, not to mention the boost to the big-man rotation with the expected return of Anderson Varejao. That’s where Len comes into play. But Len, for all the praise that has come his way in the vacuum of the underwhelming 2013 class, wouldn’t have been close to the debate for No. 1 a year ago or, likely, a year from now. He might not be a dramatic upgrade from Zeller/Varejao, and Cleveland could have the chance to go power forward-center among several possibilities that will realistically be on the board at 19.

Porter at No. 1 also makes sense because the Cavs don’t worry about public opinion, a reality never more obvious than ignoring conventional wisdom in 2011 by using the fourth pick on Thompson. Not caring about winning the news conference would be especially beneficial during the reaction to a lottery regular using the first pick on someone other than the best player.

The best perspective? If Cleveland had No. 3 instead and took Porter, it would be commended for making the right move, just as the Wizards, also needing a small forward, will be if they take Porter. Two spots is not a reach.

And it’s not like the Cavaliers would be turning their back on some super-prospect to take him, given the concerns surrounding the players at the top of most ratings. The solid pick isn’t such a bad concept in a year when the lottery picks have big holes, and that is solid in a good way. Teams are not projecting Porter as an All-Star, usually the minimum return on a No. 1, but he defends, passes, rebounds, has three-point range, a good basketball IQ, is 6-foot-8 and 200 pounds, and had two seasons as a prominent part of a major program that faced top competition, including 2012-13 as Big East Player of the Year.

“I feel like that my game and my versatility, what I do, I feel like it deserves No. 1,” Porter said. “I feel that I have the best fit to be No. 1.”

There. Someone said it out loud.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 118) Draft Lottery Special Featuring Ryan Blake

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Nerlens Noel, all 206 pounds of him, might not be the franchise savior you had in mind with the No. 1 pick in the June NBA Draft.

But you aren’t the Cleveland Cavaliers, winners of the right to choose first in the Draft, courtesy of their lucky spin during Tuesday night’s Draft lottery. You better believe Noel, the Kentucky big man whose lone college season was cut short by a knee injury, will be the focus of some team’s Draft night plans next month. He’s been on the radar too long to get passed up in what is generally considered a lukewarm Draft class.

Noel is just one of several college stars — Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, Trey Burke … just to name a few, are some of the others — being talked about as top picks in this Draft class. And who better to talk to about the lottery, these prospects and the history of the Draft itself on Episode 118 of The Hang Time Podcast than Ryan Blake, the Senior Director of NBA Scouting Operations and the son of the late and legendary Marty Blake, the father of modern-day NBA Draft process.

With a perspective that spans decades, Ryan Blake offers his analysis of not only this year’s Draft prospects, but also some of the more notable names in the history of the event, from immediate game changers like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and the high school-to-the-pros revolutionaries to legendary Draft snub victims like Paul Pierce and Danny Granger on to the alpha (LeBron James) and omega (Darko Milicic) of modern Draft day decisions.

What would have happened if the Cavaliers had listened to all of the so-called pundits who suggested that an international prospect like Milicic has more “upside” than James, who was a media superstar and Sports Illustrated cover boy before his senior year of high school?

What would have happened if high school stars like Lewis Alcindor, Shaquille O’NealChris Webber, Glenn Robinson and others had come up in an era where they had the option of bypassing college for the NBA?

We explore all that and so much more on Episode 118 of the Hang Time Podcast … which, of course, includes the latest installment of Rick Fox‘s season-long “Get Off My Lawn” rant! 

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

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