Michael Porter Jr. is as excited as he’s been in years and with good reason.
“I haven't felt this good since my sophomore year in high school [before] I took that fall, that hard fall on my back,” the Denver Nuggets rookie told Altitude’s Chris Dempsey this past Tuesday.
Porter Jr.’s work to get back on the court has been well-documented. He was rated the nation’s No. 1 recruit coming out of high school by Rivals in 2017 before several setbacks caused the forward to slip to the No. 14 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. After a year focused on recovery and making sure he was back to full strength, there are no more physical restrictions for the now 21-year-old. Porter Jr. can go out there and focus on what he loves to do—playing ball.
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“He’s been in the gym twice a day for a long time,” Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly said in his postdraft press conference. “He’s been fully cleared for several months…Again, we’re going to be patient, but he’s been full bore for a long time, and he resembles the player we saw prior to all the injuries.”
Denver fans will get their first glimpse of Porter Jr. this week as he’s set to make his professional debut in Summer League this Friday. In a one-on-one sitdown with Nuggets.com, Porter Jr. shared his expectations for this season, discussed his famous trash talking and revealed what he does off-the-court to get his mind off basketball.
[Editor’s Note: Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity purposes]
Nuggets.com: Summer League is almost here. What are your expectations for Summer League and the season ahead?
Porter Jr.: I'm just trying to be the best player I can be. I don't like to put out there what I think that is. Internally, I just want to go out there every night and be the player I know I can be. Give it my all and just grow into a big piece for this franchise. Help us win some games and get into the playoffs, do our thing in the playoffs and eventually some championships.
The Nuggets won 54 games largely because of the team’s depth. When you look at how deep this rotation is, what do you think of the challenge of securing minutes in it?
It excites me. We have a lot of good players and it's not going to be easy for me to play. We're a really good team, we almost made the Western Conference finals. So, for me to just go in here and think I'm going to automatically start or play huge minutes, I can't really think like that.
I have to think about respecting these guys and going [out there] and doing my best and hopefully, I'll get to be a big [part] of the team. I have to control what I can control and that's being as good as I can be.
A lot of your teammates have mentioned how much of a trash talker you are. Can you give me an example of how you trash talk to them?
I don't think of myself as a crazy trash talker, but if I'm scoring a lot than I'll let you know that you can't guard me.
Basketball is obviously a big part of your life. When you’re not on the court, what do you do to get your mind off the game?
Lately, I've been trying to read a little more. I play video games, but I'm trying to expand the variety of stuff that I do, because it's mostly just been basketball my whole life.
I read fiction books [that tell] stories. I'm reading this book called Aragon right now, it's like a dragon book. I read books that teach me things about life too.
The Nuggets drafted Bol Bol with their second round pick in this year’s draft. What are your thoughts on Bol and what he can bring to this team?
Man, he can be special! He's 7-foot-3, he can shoot the ball and has good touch. He's got a good basketball IQ so if he grows into the player everyone thinks he'll be, he'll be an amazing player.