Otto Porter Jr., Wizards stumble in debut


Otto Porter Jr. finished with seven points and six rebounds in his first summer league game for the Wizards. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

Otto Porter Jr. eventually will look more comfortable on the floor, become more decisive with his passes and shot selection and develop enough strength so opposing guards can’t simply snatch the ball from him.

But in his NBA summer league debut Saturday with the Washington Wizards, Porter struggled to overcome his own nerves. Porter, the third overall pick from Georgetown, missed 10 of his 13 shots and had as many field goals as personal fouls, but he refused to leave Cox Pavilion with his head held low.

“My first game. I didn’t want to come out and exceed all my expectations,” Porter said after scoring seven points and grabbing six rebounds in a 56-52 loss to the Golden State Warriors. “Any rookie, you’ve got to go through that stage. I’m not beating myself up or anything. I know I can perform better than this. Next game it will get better.”

The Wizards expect Porter and the rest of the team will get better after a performance in which they combined with the Warriors to produce Las Vegas’s lowest-scoring summer league game ever.

Defensively, the Wizards were sound. They held the Warriors to a paltry 25.9 percent from floor, but they were undone by sloppy play that resulted in more turnovers (21) than field goals (19).

The Post Sports Live crew debates whether the Wizards can make the playoffs with the addition of Otto Porter. (Post Sports Live)

Porter started at shooting guard rather than his usual small forward spot and only had two turnovers. But one came in the fourth quarter, when he held the ball as he looked for a teammate and Warriors second-year guard Kent Bazemore (21 points) yanked it away, leading to two free throws on the other end.

“He’ll be fine. He’ll be fine. A little anxious. A little nervous earlier, but it just shows he’s got the capability of being a good player in this league,” said Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell, who led the team’s summer league outfit. “He’s got to get more assertive. He’s got to find his own offense sometimes. I can point things to him, give him shots, but suppose they take that away? Now what? That’s the thing that he got to figure out. And he’ll figure it out. He did it at Georgetown. He’ll do it here.”

John Wall and Bradley Beal watched the game from courtside seats. Afterward, Wall was already looking ahead to the regular season after an active offseason for the Wizards that included the drafting of Porter and Glen Rice Jr., the re-signings of Martell Webster and Garrett Temple and the addition of Eric Maynor in free agency.

“I like all the moves they made and what we’re doing moving forward,” Wall said. “My whole goal is, this is my fourth year, and I need to be in the playoffs. Nothing more and nothing else needs to be said about that.”

Chris Singleton led the Wizards with 13 points and added two blocked shots, and Jan Vesely had six points and matched second-round pick Rice with a team-best seven rebounds. Singleton and Vesely are both on shaky ground; the Wizards have yet to pick up their fourth-year options for the 2014-15 season. On Saturday, they played with aggressiveness and confidence.

Singleton provided hustle, tenacious defense and made a few step-back fadeaway jumpers. Vesely showed some ability in the low post when he backed down Warriors forward Gary McGhee and turned to hit a fadeaway jumper early in the game. He also led the team with three blocked shots, including one that led to a fast-break dunk for him on the other end.

“Solid,” Cassell said of Vesely and Singleton, “but I want more. I want more from them guys. This is their third year, and they are going to give me more. I expect them to come out [Sunday against New York] and play better.”

Rice also had a difficult shooting night as he shot just 3 for 12 from the floor, including 2 for 7 from three-point range. Cassell said Rice was “not bashful,” and the 6-foot-6 swingman provided the low-scoring game’s only highlight in the fourth quarter, when he pump faked and drove inside for an emphatic slam.

“The lane just opened wide open, and I just took advantage of it,” Rice said. “We got to see exactly where we stand and what we need to work on, so it was a good experience. It was our first time playing together. I feel like it’ll only get better. We’re not too concerned about that.”

Beal, who went through his own feeling-out process last summer but is sidelined as he recovers from a leg injury, said he was impressed with what he saw from Porter, Rice, Singleton and Vesely but expects them to improve as summer league progresses. “All of them need to still be a little more aggressive and just attack the basket. It’s going to be tough, and I think with Otto, he’s probably pressuring himself too much. Trying to impress everybody, show what he’s capable of doing, but he needs to just play his game and have fun.”

Porter sounded as if he was already moving on. “I don’t want to take anything from it but learn from it. Learn my mistakes. I just wanted to come out and play hard,” Porter said. “Everybody is playing for a position on a team or a job. Everybody is going to play hard if they are on the floor.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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