Denver Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr.: I just have to stay ready

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

Michael Porter Jr. was one of the many who thoroughly enjoyed watching the Nuggets rally from 19 points down in the fourth quarter to secure the biggest home comeback win in franchise history against the Sixers this past Friday. It was a game he likely wishes he could have played a bigger role in, but he appreciates the slow and steady approach the team has taken in integrating him into the rotation.

“I’ve been trying to gel with the team, find my little niche and see how I’m going to play,” Porter Jr. told Nuggets.com Friday. “I just have to go out there and play my game – be ready to play every night. The biggest thing for me is to stay ready. You never know when coach is going to call on you, so I just have to stay ready and be ready to play in the game.”

With the Nuggets struggling to score against a tough Sixers’ defense through the opening three quarters, coach Michael Malone turned to Porter Jr. to provide an offensive spark. The highly-touted rookie played eight minutes, scoring two points off two shots. Despite a brief cameo, Malone believes giving Porter Jr. a small dose of a high-pressure situation is invaluable in his development.

“I want him to know that he’s going to be called upon. When called upon, be ready to play and play to the best of your ability,” Malone said. “I called on him tonight, I know on Sunday [against the Timberwolves], I may call on Torrey Craig to play 20 minutes to help us. So, we have a deep team. We all understand the importance of sacrificing and being selfless. When your number is called, be ready.”

Porter Jr. has played four games this season, averaging six points in 10 minutes per contest. At times, he’s flashed his innate ability to find scoring opportunities as shown by his 15 points in his NBA regular season debut. His stats extrapolated to 36 minutes underlines his potential: 21.6 points and 8.1 rebounds on 64.6 percent shooting. However, on a team that is one of the favorites for the league title this season, Porter Jr. acknowledges he has less room for error than most first-year players.

“It’s hard to be patient, but that’s a part of it,” Porter Jr. said. “It’s a slow process, but you just have to learn to enjoy the process and you’ll be good.”

Despite seeing limited minutes, Porter Jr. is already surprised at the vast differences between the NBA and his previous experiences in college and high school ball.

“How smart players are [has surprised me],” Porter Jr. said. “Players really know how to play the game [in the NBA]. You really have to outthink players and the quality of basketball is crazy. You can never take a night off.”

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