He needed to wait until his third game, and his 23rd minute on the floor, but Otto Porter Jr. finally scored the first basket of his NBA career Friday when he caught a pass from Garrett Temple and made a short pull-up jumper near the end of the first quarter of the Wizards’ 101-99 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Porter then opened the second period with another jumper from the top of the key and flashed a huge grin as he backpedaled on defense. Teammates on the bench waved towels and hooted their approval.
“He was happy,” John Wall said of Porter. “You could see the little smirk on his face and then he came down and hit another one a couple of plays later. I think it was big. He didn’t go too long without making his first NBA basket and it’s good to finally getting into a rhythm. It’s tough sitting out that long and shoot the ball.”
Sitting out for nearly three months with a strained right hip flexor, Porter has had to overcome more than just typical rookie jitters to feel comfortable again on the court. And after seeing two shots go down, Porter appeared more active on both ends, battling for rebounds and swinging the ball to shooters. He finished with four points and four rebounds and had the best plus-minus of any Wizards player at positive-three.
“It takes time,” Porter said. “I can’t just come out do things the way that I want to do. I got to work my way back and that’s what I’m doing every game, finding something that I can work on and try to get my rhythm going.
Porter’s teammates were already aware of what he could do from watching him in practice the past two weeks. Temple said he kept looking for him because of how hard he competed against the starters in preparation for the Hawks.
“Otto has been having some pretty good practices,” Temple said. “He’s a guy that can hit that mid-range shot and run the floor for us.”
Coach Randy Wittman wasn’t initially ready to put Porter on the floor with fellow rookie Glen Rice Jr., fearing that the pairing would lead to a few errors. But it actually provided a boost to one of the least productive second units in the league.
With Porter, Rice, Temple and Jan Vesely on the floor with Trevor Booker, the Wizards went on a 12-3 run and took a 35-28 lead when Temple found Vesely for an alley-oop dunk. Rice and Vesely both finished with eight points apiece as the Wizards’ bench contributed 25 points.
“Once you see it going in, you start feeling a rhythm and my jump shot started to go, then Glen hit a couple, Jan got a couple of easy ones and it was spreading all over,” Porter said. “Before the ball went up, we said, we don’t care what the outcome is, we want to go out and play our game. play with confidence, be aggressive and that’s we did.”
Wall admitted that the reserves had a good week in practice: “They was man-handling us, winning a lot of drills and that was big. They came out with a lot of confidence. They the ones that kept us in the game. And that’s good.”
Porter was excited to see some shots go down, but now he is looking to get his first win on Saturday as Washington (9-12) hosts the Los Angeles Clippers at Verizon Center.
The Wizards are 0-3 since Porter returned and have lost those games by a combined seven points. The overtime loss to the Hawks stung, as Al Horford buried a short fadeaway jumper as time expired.
“This was a tough one,” Porter said. “Neck and neck. Able to climb back, unfortunately, that shot at the end, it was a good look.”
Tonight, the Clippers are in town for what promises to also be a tough one. Wall has never defeated fellow No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin, losing all five meetings. The Wizards beat the Clippers at Verizon Center last season, but Griffin sat because of a knee injury.
(TV: Comcast SportsNet Plus. Radio: WFED-1500).
Here’s some reading to help you get ready for the game: