Connect with us

NBA

NBA PM: Bryant, Buss Talk Frustrating Lakers Season

Kobe Bryant and Jeanie Buss opened up about the Los Angeles Lakers’ struggles and how the team can right the ship … James Dolan makes it

Alex Kennedy

Published

on

Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel discusses his coaching philosophy, game-day routine and more in this one-on-one interview.

Bryant, Buss Talk Frustrating Lakers Season

This has been one of the worst seasons ever for the Los Angeles Lakers.

L.A. is currently 22-44, which is tied for the fewest wins in the Western Conference, and they were the first NBA team to be officially eliminated from the playoff race last Friday. Fringe players like Kendall Marshall and Ryan Kelly have been thrust into starting roles for the Lakers despite the fact that they’d ride the bench on most teams, and the team has struggled to compete on most nights.

The last year has been frustrating, to say the least, for fans in Los Angeles who aren’t accustomed to sitting at the bottom of the standings and dealing with these kinds of struggles. Last season’s supposed super team severely underperformed, Dwight Howard left as an unrestricted free agent, Steve Nash’s health continues to be an issue and Kobe Bryant sustained back-to-back serious injuries.

Then, as if the Lakers faithful didn’t already have enough to be upset about, they had to watch Phil Jackson become the New York Knicks’ team president on Tuesday. This comes one year after Los Angeles decided to hire Mike D’Antoni as their head coach over the interested Jackson – a move that was questioned immediately and looks even worse today since D’Antoni’s days in L.A. seem to be numbered.

Earlier today, Bryant appeared on the Dan Patrick Show and discussed the team’s current state and future. Patrick said that he didn’t understand why the Lakers didn’t hire Jackson last season and Bryant, who is always blunt, said that he didn’t get the decision either.

“Listen, that makes two of us,” Bryant said on the Dan Patrick Show. “I didn’t really understand it much either.”

Bryant was quick to add that he still believes the Lakers can turn things around and that he has faith in the team’s front office to right the ship.

“What we can do as players is just trust the organization,” Bryant said. “I’ve had conversations with Jimmy [Buss]. Jimmy is really adamant about the direction that he wants to go with this organization. He feels really confident in that fact that he can be able to turn it around. Him and Jeanie [Buss] seem to be really focused on being on the same page, getting on the same page and pushing this organization to have the same legacy that their father was able to maintain for so many years.

“It’s hard to really see that when you’re in this type of situation where things really seem, the future seems really bleak. It’s tough to have that faith and that trust, but that’s what you have to have. I’ve been with this organization since I was 17 years old and I’ve known Jimmy, I’ve known Jeanie and I know they bleed purple and gold, man. They want to do the right thing for the organization. When you have people who are that passionate about it, just as passionate as you are, it’s really just about communication and moving forward in the same direction. I have no doubt that that will happen.”

On Tuesday, after his introductory press conference with the Knicks, Jackson was asked if he would’ve taken a similar job calling the shots with the Lakers. The 13-time champion said that it wasn’t an option. He made it clear that Jim Buss wanted to put his own fingerprints on the franchise and go in a different direction. Jeanie Buss also chimed in, saying that Jackson was never offered a job with the Lakers.

“I think it was clear that Phil wanted to go back to work,” Buss said in an interview with Time Warner Cable SportsNet. “He had been talking to different organizations, and for me personally, I like having Phil around, but there was no role for him with the Lakers. He’s too good of a basketball mind to just sit at home in a rocking chair playing Solitaire. He decided, and I feel comfortable with that, and he knows my commitment is here with the Lakers. The Lakers are my life. For him, the Knicks will be a job that will have a beginning and hopefully for him, success. Not over the Lakers, but in the Eastern Conference, and it’ll someday come to an end because he’s a hired person. But the Lakers are my life and it’s a family business. This is going to be my family forever.

“He was not offered any official position [with the Lakers]. Fans will recall seeing him when we retired Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey, for example. He came and he was part of that ceremony. There were a lot of Laker functions that Phil was with me because he was there to support me, in no official capacity. There is no role in the front office for him for what he could contribute. Maybe I could have him sell sponsorships or do something like that, work security, but I don’t think that would be something that would give Phil the kind of challenge he is looking for that would fulfill him. … With Phil, I wanted him to know that if there was no role for him with the Lakers, he should be free to pursue other interests. I didn’t know if it’d be an NBA team, I didn’t know if was going to a third-world country to volunteer with helping them set up basketball camps. I didn’t know what it was, but I wanted him to pursue something that would fulfill him. Certainly, the decision was his to make and I support him whatever he wants to do.”

Bryant hasn’t hid his frustration this season. A week ago, when he was officially shut down for the rest of the campaign, he told reporters that he expected the front office to make major changes this offseason to right the ship, adding that he didn’t have the patience for a rebuilding effort.

Today, when asked if D’Antoni should be given another year with the Lakers, Bryant hesitated and then didn’t offer a ringing endorsement for the head coach. While he did say that injuries have contributed to D’Antoni’s struggles in Los Angeles, there have been reports indicating that Bryant has no interest in playing for D’Antoni next year and this quote doesn’t do much to dispel those rumors.

“Um, I don’t know,” Bryant said when asked if D’Antoni should get another year in L.A. “It’s been tough on him. The two years that he’s been here, he’s been dealing with so many injuries left and right. He hasn’t really gotten a fair deal, a fair shake at it since he’s been here.”

Jeanie Buss understands Bryant’s irritation. He’s as competitive individual as you’ll find and his team doesn’t seem poised to compete for a championship over the next two years, which very well could be the last of Bryant’s illustrious career. Buss has been just as upset with this season, but she’s confident the Lakers can get back on track.

“I think it’s been extremely frustrating,” Buss said. “I understand why the fans are frustrated. A lot of injuries that weren’t expected and certainly we were all looking forward to the return of Kobe Bryant from his injury, and he came back successfully, but it was short-lived. I don’t think I can remember a season like this in all the years I’ve worked with the Lakers, and the good thing is that there’s going to be a next season and we’ll have an opportunity to get things back on track.

“He’s such a competitor and I can only imagine what he’s going through right now because he has no outlet for that. I lived with it. I lived with Phil Jackson and I know how competitive he is. If that competitiveness is not fed or does not have an outlet, it can drive you crazy. So I understand his frustration and I will talk to him and I will commiserate with him because I know how he feels.”

The Lakers will have a top pick in this year’s draft, which has been hyped up as one of the best incoming classes in recent memory, which should help the team as they try to restock the cupboard. L.A. has $34,116,243 in guaranteed commitments for next season and $25,000,000 for 2015-16.

Dolan: My Goal Isn’t to Be Loved

It’s no secret that many fans of the New York Knicks blame James Dolan for the team’s issues. Dolan is consistently criticized by fans and media alike, and this week has been no different since he has been in the headlines with the hiring of Phil Jackson as the team’s president. Yesterday, it surfaced that Dolan passed out his CDs during free agent meetings back in the summer of 2010, giving critics more ammo.

However, Dolan took some time to go on ESPN Radio’s “The Michael Kay Show” yesterday and he was asked point blank whether it bothered him that he isn’t liked by fans.

“As far as being liked and disliked, I know what my job is,” Dolan told Kay. “I know what I have to do. I go about doing it, you’re not going to be liked by everybody. If your goal is to be liked by everybody, I don’t think you’re going to do such a good job because you’re going to worry more about that than making the right decisions. I don’t read the papers, and I’m sorry to say I don’t listen to talk radio. Tell me something, tell me the living New York sports owner that everybody loves? I haven’t seen any love fests going on for any sports team owners in New York in the time I’ve been here. They like winning and they don’t like losing, and that’s part of the deal.

“My goal isn’t to be loved, my goal is to win, and I would love for the fans to be happy. I want them to be happy. I want them to come to the Garden and have a great time. With the transformed Garden, it’s a great place to go and see a sporting event and that’s what my job is. It’s not to go out there and try and be loved by everybody.”

Dolan also reiterated that Jackson will make all of the basketball decisions in New York. Kay pressed Dolan about this, asking if Jackson had the power to, say, walk away from re-signing Carmelo Anthony.

“It’s his decision,” Dolan said. “That’s my agreement with him. … The way that I manage is that I try to empower the people underneath me. They bring me a plan for the year, or a longer term plan, and we agree on the goal. They’re the ones with the strategy, I’m the one with the checkbook. Beyond that, I think it’s really all Phil’s call. I think we have shown that we’re willing to write checks in order to try and win. And I am probably a little more dismayed that the checks haven’t produced more winning.”

Dolan was asked if this change would’ve been made regardless of the team’s record. He admitted that the team’s struggles led to the move.

“I don’t know, I’m not sure,” Dolan said. “That’s sort of a ‘what if’ question. If the team was in the middle of a 54-game winning season, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to change much. So, you know if it was that kind of difference I think, it might not have happened.”

Dolan also stressed that he doesn’t see Jackson returning to the sidelines as a head coach for the Knicks, even though he is a Hall of Fame coach and won 11 championships in that role.

“I don’t think that’ll ever happen,” Dolan said of Jackson coaching. “That’s not what we’re looking for Phil to do for us. We’re looking to have him build a consistently winning franchise. I think he knows how to do that. I think he’ll put the personnel in place. I think he’s going to be deeply involved in the basketball decisions, the style of play, the makeup of the team, all the things that you would want him to be involved in, and hopefully that it will be a culture that’s built at the Knicks, fostered by Steve Mills too, whose a big part of the equation, and that’s really the job. I mean, if Phil would ever coach, who would say no? But at the moment, that’s not in the cards.”

New York is currently 27-40, which puts them in the Eastern Conference’s ninth seed, four and a half games out of the playoff picture.

March Madness is Here

The 2014 NCAA Tournament is underway, and Basketball Insiders has the most in-depth coverage of March Madness you’ll find:

Want a preview of every single NCAA Tournament game? Click here.

Check out a breakdown of the tournament field by clicking here.

Who are this year’s Cinderella teams to keep an eye on? Find out here.

Can Wichita State win it all after going undefeated? An interview with their star.

Check back over the next few days for more coverage of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Advertisement




1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: James Dolan Says He’s Just 1 of Many Hated New York Sports Owners » First Web Market

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NBA

NBA Daily: LiAngelo Ball Fighting For Place in the NBA

LiAngelo Ball has the name recognition but is trying to prove he belongs in the NBA based on his skills and abilities.

James Blancarte

Published

on

NBA fans are currently being treated to competitive Western and Eastern Conference Finals. The postseason is coming to a close and in roughly two weeks, the eventual 2018 NBA champion shall be crowned. With the NBA season nearly over, NBA draft season is revving up. On June 21, exactly sixty young men will hear their name called on draft night. This group will include highly sought-after NCAA collegiate prospects, international players and U.S. born players that have spent time improving their respectives games overseas.

Attention is most often focused on the top few picks. However, one name has had a conspicuous tendency to stick out, LiAngelo Ball. Like his older brother Lonzo Ball, Liangelo was recruited into the UCLA program amid the heightened attention surrounding the Ball family. Unlike Lonzo, Liangelo was unable to showcase his game on the U.S. collegiate level following a widely covered theft scandal overseas, his subsequent suspension from the UCLA program and the Ball family’s decision to then place LiAngelo and his younger brother LaMelo Ball into the Lithuanian league.

Now removed from overseas play, LiAngelo Ball is fighting to prove that his game (and not just his name) warrants the attention of NBA team officials. Many critics are quick to look past Lonzo’s clear NBA talent and whatever potential LaMelo Ball might have to quickly dismiss LiAngelo. LiAngelo Ball made it clear he sees himself as an NBA player. Ball spoke to Basketball Insiders recently to discuss a wide range of topics.

“I’m an NBA player, that’s why I declared for the draft. That’s why I’m here also,” Ball stated.

While those who question the potential for Ball to make the league via the draft, Ball has been busy doing his best to make a good impression in person. Ball spoke about the interviews he’s had so far.

“Team interviews were great. It wasn’t really an interview for me. I just started talking, vibing with the coach really. I felt like it went good for me,” Ball said and confirmed which teams he had spoken to. “I had two with [Oklahoma City] and the Suns.”

Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype confirmed that Ball also has private workouts scheduled with the Lakers, Clippers and Warriors.

Ball gave some insight into his approach to the workouts and whether there is a specific approach regarding the teams in attendance.

“I’m going to work out hard. I’m not really familiar with what they do so, I don’t know but I’m going to knock down my shots and show my endurance. Stuff like that,” Ball said.

Numerous videos have been posted of Ball shooting well in these workouts. The videos, as his past play would indicate, show that Ball is at least a capable outside shooter. Ball was quick to point this out, along with his defensive potential, as skill sets that make him a viable NBA prospect.

“I feel like I bring the team, I can knock down shots for a team. I’m real confident in that,” Ball said. “I feel like my defensive game is good. With the right coach and somebody lets me know the techniques, I feel like I’ll be a good defender in the league.”

Young players and prospects are often asked which players they have looked up to or emulated as it helps to give a bit of insight into the young player’s mentality. Ball didn’t admit to copying a particular player’s game but did name a few players he likes to watch while slipping in a flattering comparison he says he has heard about himself.

“I don’t really model my game after other players. I always just play my own way, my own style. I like to watch players as far as James Harden, LeBron [James], Klay Thompson. People say I play like [Thompson] sometimes. So, I just like watching that type of stuff. Pick up stuff from the game,” Ball said.

Ball also highlighted his time in Europe as a plus to his resume.

“I feel like it translates good into the NBA. I mean, I got a year of experience over in Europe, Europe basketball. [Because] they do a lot of the same sets, like I said, as far as coming off the screens, pull-ups and all that. I feel like it helped me out there,” Ball stated.

Also, Ball didn’t hesitate to show his interest in playing for any team beyond the Lakers, if that opportunity presented itself.

“I’m saying I’d like to play for the Lakers [because] my brother is on the team. I want to play with him. I’d love to play for any other team really. I don’t have like a set choice.  Any other team, I’m ready to play for,” Ball stated

Ball needs to keep all options open. There are only so many spots in the draft and as Ball stated, he will have to be prepared to explore every opportunity in the draft, free agency or perhaps through the G-League. For now, he is focusing his attention on the task at hand and doing whatever he can to ensure his name is among the sixty called on draft night.

Continue Reading

Mock Drafts

2018 NBA Consensus Mock Draft – Ver 4.0

Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ experts take a look at the draft class and weigh in on what they are seeing and hearing in the march up to the 2018 NBA Draft.

Basketball Insiders

Published

on

 

Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ top writers will break down the latest news and notes surrounding the 2018 NBA Draft. Included is an updated mock draft that reflects how each writer sees the draft landscape based on the latest news, workouts, and information from the pre-draft process.

Version: 1.0 | 2.0 | 3.0

Moke’s Notebook: One thing I can say for sure is that this is the most unpredictable draft I’ve seen in many years. The Kings and Hawks are each rumored to be open to moving the second and third pick in the draft, and I have a feeling that’s due to the intrigue surrounding Luka Dončić. At this point, the expectation is that the Suns will select DeAndre Ayton first, and I get the sense that there are many that believe that the risk of selecting Dončić is too great. Aside from that, Michael Porter, Jr. (whom I’ve been told is the “dream” scenario for the Knicks) and Mo Bamba each saw their stock rise pretty dramatically during the Combine in Chicago. I’ve seen some mocks having Porter as highly as third.

Aside from those two, there are a lot of questions about Trae Young. It was once thought that Stephen Curry and even Kevin Durant weren’t strong enough to make it in the NBA, and similar questions have been asked of Young. Between Dončić, Bamba, Porter and Young, we might be looking at four of the biggest risks that are consensus top seven picks in quite some time. Of the batch, I’d feel most comfortable selecting Bamba, whose maturity and outside shooting are both better than advertised, but again, with teams at the top willing to discuss dealing their picks and the appetite for risk playing a major role in how the draft shakes out, I only have confidence in my top seven, not necessarily where they’ll land.

As we get closer to the draft, I’d keep an eye on a few names: Aaron Holiday, Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo. Each of those guys have a shot to move up into the late teens, with Holiday, in particular, having lottery potential. Keita Bates-Diop and Jevon Carter are two second rounders who I wouldn’t be surprised to see sneak into the top 30, either.

Over the coming weeks, some guys will be called in for more individual workouts and as the weeks progress, our intel will get stronger.

Jesse’s Notebook: Though the NBA Lottery and Combine are behind us, there are still a lot of questions about how things will shake out on draft night. While Luka Dončić has been considered a consensus top-two pick for some time, some are now questioning whether he will drop a spot or two. I still believe that by draft night, Dončić will likely be picked either first or second, but that doesn’t seem to be a foregone conclusion anymore.

The mystery man of this year’s class continues to be Michael Porter Jr. Porter Jr. checks off all of the boxes for a top-tier draft prospect, but his injury history and long-term health are still major issues that teams need to consider. No one in the draft has a larger range of outcomes. Porter Jr. recently said at the Combine that he is the best player in the draft and it will only take one team with a top pick to agree with his assessment to roll the dice and take a shot on him. But if it looks like his athleticism or burst is limited because of his previous injuries, he could drop toward the end of the top-10.

As of now, there is a good sense of who will be picked with the top 15 picks or so. Once we get outside of that range, things become somewhat less clear. There is very little consensus on how teams will draft from 16-30, so I expect the upcoming workouts and other pre-draft processes to help add clarity on that front.

Benny’s Notebook: Since Basketball Insiders’ last set of Notebooks, much of the draft landscape has changed. From lottery leaps to combine crushers, we’re finally at the point in the process where things start to happen. I still believe Luka Dončić is this draft class’ best player — he literally won both the EuroLeague MVP and Final Four MVP this weekend — but we must deal with the reality that Phoenix (and perhaps others) may look elsewhere. Outside of swapping No. 1 and 2, most of my adjustments come in the lower half of the first round.

I’d banked high on Mitchell Robinson showing out at the Draft Combine and, instead, he pulled out of everything completely. Allegedly, this is because Robinson has earned a promise from the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 25, according to Aran Smith of NBADraft.net. So, with little else to go off of on Robinson, he slides for me. Additionally, after the strange week of Dennis Schröder news, it’s possible that the Atlanta Hawks could search for a future guard — and the stock-rising Aaron Holiday certainly fits the bill.

Lastly, I’ve begun to come around on Zhaire Smith, the 6-foot-5 prospect from Texas Tech that averaged 11.3 points and five rebounds per game. In the modern, positionless NBA, Smith can already guard multiple spots and his athletic abilities have been rated at the top of his class. He may need some G-League time next season, but he turns just 19 years old in early June. While he probably won’t rise much higher than I’ve had him in mocks thus far, he makes sense for plenty of rebuilding rosters.

Steve’s Notebook: With the official NBA Draft Combine in the books there has been a lot of draft chatter. While it’s important to state clearly that its still very very early in the process and lots of things can change, there is a sense at least in a few places where some teams seem to be heading and where some players might end up landing.

The Phoenix Suns did land the top overall pick, and there was almost no executive in Chicago who thought Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton wouldn’t be Phoenix’s pick. While there is real validity to the idea that new Suns head coach Igor Kokoškov has experience and a relationship with euro sensation Luka Dončić, the belief is the Suns will make their decision based on talent, not relationship.

There was also a buzz that both Sacramento and Atlanta seemed more interested in the domestic big men available at the top of the draft rather than Dončić. That could always change, but the thought process there was the risk that Dončić could opt to stay out of the draft if he didn’t like where he would land, and both teams seem to be higher on other players.

There were a few players who clearly had fans among NBA talent evaluators.

Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr, could go significantly higher than expected with Dallas being his likely ceiling. The Mavericks are far from locked in on anyone, but the belief is the Mavericks are looking at versatile bigs.

Kentucky’s Kevin Knox was something of a mystery in Chicago opting to do very little publicly and left town early. According to several teams, Knox could go as high as six to Orlando and has strong interest from the Bulls, Cavaliers, and Knicks.

UCLA’s Aaron Holiday is said to have a “soft” commitment in the late teens and has, at this point, turned away workouts with teams in the 20’s. There is a sense he could be gone before by the 19th pick.

Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison pulled out of the Combine with NBA Draft.net’s Aran Smith tweeting that he is believed to have gotten a commitment from the Chicago Bulls at 22. Smith also tweeted that Mitchell Robinson also got a promise from the Lakers at 25. One veteran executive labeled this draft class as being the most aggressive draft he can recall where agents were calling and pressing for commitments.

Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo wowed athletically during combine testing and several executives before the testing sessions not only nailed where he’d measure and perform, they also suggested he’d be gone in the 20’s.

Executives were especially critical of the two notable international prospects Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs, suggesting that both could slide into the second round.

IMG Academy’s Anfernee Simons has several fans, but the word on him is that he’s a long-term project that would need time. There was a considerable amount of fact-finding by scouts on Simons. A team to watch could be Orlando if Simons is there is there when the Magic select at 35 or 41.

Tulane’s Melvin Frazier came away with mixed reviews, some love his length and athleticism and see him as a defensive presence, other teams saw him as lacking defined NBA skill sets.

Maryland’s Kevin Huerter has some fans. One executive offered a friendly wager that Huerter would be gone by 40.

West Virginia’s Jevon Carter looks like he has a real shot to be drafted in the first round, with several teams at the bottom of draft expressing real interest.

There are a couple of sleeper types that seemed to have turned some heads through the process in Chicago, namely Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike, Louisville’s Ray Spalding, Dayton’s Kostas Antetokounmpo and West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate. All of them could go significantly higher than currently projected.

Who are these guys anyway? Steve Kyler is the Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 19 years. Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders and has covered basketball for the last eight years. Jesse Blancarte is a Senior NBA Writer and Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last four years. Benny Nadeau is an NBA Writer and finished his first season covering the NBA for Basketball Insiders.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, @mike_yaffe, @MattJohnNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA Daily: Porter Jr. Ready to Make Up For Lost Time in the NBA

Michael Porter Jr. played just 53 minutes of basketball in his lone college season, yet believes he’s the best player in the draft now that he’s seemingly healthy.

Dennis Chambers

Published

on

When Michael Porter Jr. stepped foot on Missouri’s campus, he was supposed to inject life into a basketball program that hadn’t made the NCAA tournament since the 2012-13 season.

After receiving his release from the University of Washington, following the firing of Lorenzo Romar, Porter Jr. decided to return home and play under Cuonzo Martin for the Tigers. The No. 2 ranked recruit in the nation, the near 6-foot-11 small forward possessed the scoring and versatility traits to suggest he would be a star at the college basketball level before making his jump to the NBA.

But that would not be so for Porter Jr., as a back injury and subsequent surgery would limit him to just 53 total minutes in three games coming at the end of the season.

In his brief stint as a student-athlete, Porter Jr. played how many would expect a teenager coming off of months-long injury rehab: rusty.

Thirty points and 20 rebounds in three games, on 10-for-33 shooting from the field, and 7-for-20 from beyond the arc. It was clear Porter Jr. was not up to the speed he expected to be on the college court just several months prior. But no matter, he wanted to get out there anyway, regardless of risking re-injury, so that he could help his teammates.

“I knew that I wasn’t gonna put on a show, or be the Mike that they saw in a few months,” Porter Jr. said at the NBA Combine. “The way I was thinking about was just, you know, they’ll know the player I am in a few months. Just trying to help my team and not be selfish with the decision. We had like six players on scholarship at the time because two had gotten injured. So, I was just trying to do what I could to be a part of the team.”

Porter Jr.’s return didn’t lift his team the way he had hoped, as Missouri fell to Florida State in the first round of the NCAA tournament 67-54. When the clock hit zeros, the smooth shooting swingman with a questionable injury history set his sights on the NBA.

However, Porter Jr.’s projection at the game’s highest level is much different in May than it was 10 months ago. From positioning himself to battle for the top overall pick, Porter Jr. is now somewhat of an enigma. His game is a bit of a mystery, and so are his medical records. Once considered a no-brainer to be picked top-three, Porter Jr. could find himself sliding near the back end of the top 10 on draft night.

Noting that he originally injured his back a few years ago in high school, when the injury finally caught up to him just before his college career was ready to tip off, Porter Jr. took a unique approach to otherwise disappointing news.

“When I had to have the surgery I kind of viewed it as a blessing,” Porter Jr. said. “A new start, and I could really reach my full potential. They had me as the number one player in high school, but I didn’t even feel like I was at 100 percent, and I do now.”

Being at 100 percent, as Porter Jr. says in his own words, just before he begins his NBA career has the forward excited for his future. Despite missing time on the court and falling behind other prospects in the draft conversation, Porter Jr. hasn’t lost his self-confidence.

“I’m just excited to show everybody the player that I am,” Porter Jr. said. “I’m still the best player … I played against all these guys, they’re all great players. But I’m the best player in this draft.”

Though his back is still a mystery, and his sample size is small, if Porter Jr. were to reach the potential scouts and NBA personnel pegged him as having when he was on the doorsteps of college basketball, then he has the makings of a franchise-caliber player.

With the opportunity of getting that kind of upside at a potentially discounted selection, Porter Jr. was one of the most popular names at the Cmbine. The forward mentioned meeting with just about every team picking in the top 10 come June’s draft. One team that Porter Jr. has been frequently linked to, the Chicago Bulls, were not exclusively mentioned on his list. But Porter Jr. noted the Bulls and his agent were in contact and he hoped to get a workout scheduled with Chicago.

No matter who Porter Jr. meets with or works out for from now until draft night, the versatile and skilled forward projects to be one of the most interesting players to follow. Could he impress throughout the draft process and reclaim his spot within the top-three? Or will he slide down draft boards and become a potential steal for a team in the back half of the lottery?

Whatever the outcome is, Porter Jr. will be ready.

“I was hoping to turn college basketball upside down like a lot of these players,” Porter Jr. said. “But this is just a step in my process in becoming the best player that I can be. It’s a little different, but I’m more ready than ever. I’ve been dreaming about this NBA stuff for so long, I feel like I’m ready.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

NBA Team Salaries

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending Now