MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Otto Porter Jr. is visiting most NBA venues for the first time in his rookie season, but found himself in a place that he is more familiar with than any arena except Verizon Center when the Wizards arrived on Tuesday at Memphis’s FedEx Forum.
“I’ve been in this gym quite a few times,” Porter said after the Wizards prepared to take on the Memphis Grizzlies at shootaround.
Growing up in southeast Missouri, Porter was only able to experience live NBA action by taking a nearly two-hour trip from tiny Morely, Mo, to Memphis.
Porter remembers taking field trips from elementary school through high school to watch former Grizzlies Pau Gasol and Rudy Gay and current Mike Conley and Zach Randolph. He also received a life-sized poster of 7-foot-2, former No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet that Porter hung on his wall to measure how much he had grown.
“That’s how I kept up with my height, from that poster,” Porter said with a laugh. “I was like, at his chest when I first saw it. I haven’t even talked to him about it.”
Attending Grizzlies games weren’t the root of his NBA dreams because those seeds “had already been planted,” Porter said, “but just being able to come to an NBA game…I didn’t even have a team. I just liked the competition. It was kind of big for me to come watch these games. I never thought I’d actually be in one of those games.”
Porter’s parents, Otto Sr. and Elnora, and little brother, Jeffrey, will be in attendance when the Wizards take on the Grizzlies on Tuesday, but the third overall pick from last June isn’t sure if he will actually have a chance to perform.
Since scoring two points and grabbing six rebounds in 19 minutes in Phoenix on Jan. 24, when Martell Webster was sidelined with the flu, the 6-9 Porter has only played a total of four minutes in the past eight games.
“It is tough, not knowing if you’re going to play or not, but at the same time, you’ve got to stay ready, because you never know what can happen,” Porter said. “If your name gets called, you’ve got to come in and perform at a high level. I’m just now starting. At the same time, I’m still level-headed, trying to stay level headed throughout this whole process, playing and enjoying myself at the same time.”
Porter still believes that he is living out his dream in the NBA though he hasn’t received much opportunity to play while backing up veterans Trevor Ariza and Webster. He was sidelined by a hip injury that robbed him of training camp, the preseason and the first month of the regular season and has only received more than 15 minutes four times in 22 appearances this season.
“It’s just something I learned from my grandmother, to be patient in life and in general. For me this is something that I can work on, being patient with basketball,” said Porter, who is averaging 1.7 points and 1.5 rebounds. “I never really was that patient with basketball, because I’m always playing. But at the same time, I’m still having fun.”
The Wizards (25-25) don’t have much practice time, either, but Porter said he tries to take advantage of any time he gets on the floor. “Whenever we do practice, I just try to do my best. I’m not only trying to help myself. I’m trying to help the guys be prepared for whatever team we’re playing. In the scouting report, I want to be ready for them, too. Just playing hard in practice all the time shows the coaches I’m still in it. I’m not off to the side worrying about my playing time or anything like that.”
And being in Memphis, in his own NBA uniform, with his family around isn’t too bad. “It is kind of like home,” he said.