On the night that the Philadelphia 76ers retired Allen Iverson’s No. 3 jersey, Georgetown’s highest drafted player since Iverson appeared in just his third game since late January.
Otto Porter Jr. received roughly four minutes playing time in the Wizards’ 122-103 victory over the 76ers, scoring two points and grabbing a rebound in the blowout. Porter has played at least 10 minutes just once since Jan. 7 and has not played because of a coaching decision in 15 of the past 27 games.
Last week, the Wizards sent rookie Glen Rice Jr. down to the NBA Developmental League for the second time this season because there was no room for him to play. Coach Randy Wittman said recently that the D-League remains an option for Porter as well.
“We have to be a little careful with all the new guys we’re bringing back but I think down the down the road we could look at that,” Wittman said, while added that it was also important to keep Porter with the team, “in case, something…You got to cover your back.”
Wittman smiled, uncomfortably, because he didn’t want to mention the possibility of more injuries besetting the team, which is already without Nene for another five weeks and has played without Kevin Seraphin for the past three games. The team has been working back veteran Al Harrington into the fold as he recovers from right knee surgery and Chris Singleton has even moved ahead of Porter in the rotation, given is ability to play power forward.
Washington is one of the 17 teams in the NBA that do not have a one-to-one affiliation with a D-League team. The Iowa Energy has the second-best record in the D-League and the Wizards share the team with Chicago, Denver, New Orleans and Minnesota. In his past two games with the Energy, Rice has averaged 13 points and 5.5 rebounds.
The Wizards drafted Porter third overall last June and agreed to terms with Martell Webster a week later, but Trevor Ariza has taken control of the small forward position as he approaches free agency. In the midst of a career year, Ariza has been an important piece of the team’s run to the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference because of his defense and three-point shooting.
Porter’s rookie season has been lost ever since he suffered a right hip injury in September and missed three months of action – including training camp and the preseason – while rehabbing and recovering.
Wittman tossed Porter into the mix when he made his debut on Dec. 6 but the 6-foot-9 forward’s playing time has declined significantly since Bradley Beal returned from a stress injury in his right leg in the middle of that month. Porter has become an afterthought with Wittman relying almost exclusively on a three-man wing rotation with Beal, Ariza and Martell Webster. With the team under a playoffs-or-else edict and having success, it is hard to justify taking minutes away from those players.
In Wittman’s offense, which is almost identical to Flip Saunder’s offense, the shooting guard and small forward are practically interchangeable and used to primarily to stretch the floor for a low post scorer and penetrating guard. Porter was an All-American last year at Georgetown, but not necessarily for his perimeter shooting. With the Wizards, he has been asked to run to the corners and shoot three-pointers but he has missed his only 10 attempts from long distance, including his lone three-point attempt in Philadelphia.
“It’s tough. There is no question about it. Not only are you a rookie but you’re a young rookie, coming out of college early. Didn’t get any summer league. Didn’t get any training camp. Missed the first 20 games this season. It’s hard,” Wittman said. “But he’s going to be fine. He’s a player that I think is going to be in this league a long time. But no question, that put him behind the eight ball a little bit in terms of getting inclined with what this whole league is about. You have to learn that as a rookie and when you put on you’re 19, 20 years old on top of it, it’s a whole ‘nother game.”