“Oh yeah. Atlanta beat them,” Porter suddenly remembered.
“Walk!” Porter shouted like an armchair official while watching an illegal play on the screen.
Porter later left his seat for the court. Although he studied the opponent as if he planned to play later that night and grunted through an extended workout that consisted of half court running and spot-up shooting as though he was ready for the vigors of the game, Porter would return to the locker room to change into a designer suit.
For the 10th time this season, and for the eighth consecutive game, Porter did not play.
On Dec. 17, Porter underwent an MRI that revealed a grade II strain of the vastus medialis (the quad muscle that extends to his right knee) and was expected to miss the next seven to 10 days. Friday night’s home game against the Chicago Bulls will mark the 12th day since the diagnosis. While there is internal hope around the organization that Porter will return to the lineup against the Bulls, judging by Coach Scott Brooks’s words Wednesday night, the six-year veteran and starting small forward may still be relegated to watching film and working out before his teammates take the floor to compete.
“Not sure when he’s coming back,” Brooks said. "[Porter is] one of our best shooters, floor spacers. He can guard multiple positions defensively. He has a knack for cutting and getting offensive rebounds and he’s one of our best rebounders in that position. There’s a lot of things that we miss but you can’t worry about it until he comes back.”
Since the 2016-17 season, the Wizards are 5-13 in games played without Porter. This season, Washington has lost seven of the 10 total games he has missed.
The ways in which the Wizards miss Porter are difficult to see on the surface. As Markieff Morris put it, in his typical no-filter expression, the Wizards have been in a season-long quagmire even when at full strength.
“S---, we were struggling when he was playing,” Morris said. “We’re still struggling right now.”
By the numbers, Porter is currently in the midst of his worst statistical season since his third year in the league. When he is on the court, he’s playing fewer minutes, taking less shots and the envisioned 2018-19 starting lineup featuring Dwight Howard, Morris and Porter in the frontcourt — a five-man group that seems unlikely to play again since Howard will need months to rehabilitate from spinal surgery and Morris has moved to the second unit — produced a negative-4.0 plus/minus point differential.
Still, Porter’s impact cannot be brushed aside. Despite appearing in only 25 games and playing the fourth-most minutes on the team (29.5), Porter remains a capable rebounder and efficient three-point shooter — filling two of the glaring areas of deficiency for the 13-22 Wizards.
Porter’s rebound-per-minute average ranks higher than every active starter except center Thomas Bryant, who has filled in for Howard. Over the last eight games, the Wizards have averaged 38.4 rebounds per game, compared to 40.7 from the first 25 games of the season.
And while Porter has attempted only 3.8 three-pointers a game, making them at a 36.8 percent clip, his presence as a floor spacer allows the Wizards to launch more deep shots per 48 minutes (33.4) than when any other regular starter has been on the court, according to statistics on NBA.com.
“O.P.' s a glue guy,” center Ian Mahinmi said. “He does a lot. Offense, defense. He’s one of those guys that doesn’t need a whole lot.
“It’s very hard to replace him,” Mahinmi continued. “We try, we have that next-man-up mentality going on. Obviously, we’re looking forward to him getting back into the lineup.”
Since Porter was inactive Wednesday night, following the Wizards' loss in Detroit in which they were out-rebounded by 15 and misfired on 24 of 33 three-point attempts, he had the benefit of leaving the locker room early for the bus. Morris stuck around, however, and inside an empty locker room he surveyed the big picture of the free-falling season.
“I talked to the team after the game and was just like, ‘We laugh and joke and love each other in here, we got to go out there and show the same passion that we need to win,' ” Morris said. “We’re nine games below .500. We can’t keep saying, ‘When we’re going to turn the corner? When we’re going to turn the corner?’ By the time you look at it, we’re going to be 15, 20 games below .500.
“That’s basically the way we’re looking now,” Morris continued. “I think we’ve got eight games before the halfway point of the season, we’re eight games out of the eighth spot with two superstars. That should never happen.”
With or without Porter, the Wizards' season has veered off the tracks with no turnaround in sight. But Porter gives the team a source of hope. When he returns, the revamped starting frontcourt with Bryant and Trevor Ariza will stabilize — Porter hasn’t played since the team acquired Ariza.
“I’m still positive. I’m not feeling on the other side. I feel like we can change this year,” Morris said. “We get O back, that will be a big lift for our team. That will strengthen our bench up a little more. Him and Ariza are most likely going to start and that’s a defensive-minded starting unit and it will carry over to the bench.
“Hopefully when he comes back,” Morris said of Porter, “he can be that breath of fresh air that we need.”