When the doors opened to the Denver Nuggets practice facility on Monday afternoon, media rushed in and one player stood out from amongst the rest, number one.
That player was Michael Porter Jr., who will be making his much anticipated Nuggets debut on Friday night in Las Vegas. All the hype surrounding Porter Jr. will finally be put to the test in Vegas, but one thing he did prove on Monday is he sure looks ready.
Porter Jr. practiced with a brace on his left ankle, which did not seem to hinder him as he ran up and down the court without any problems. It took just a few minutes into the 5-on-5 scrimmage for Porter Jr. to make some noise as he made a step-back three pointer with ease, which provided a glimmer of why the Nuggets made him a lottery pick in 2018.
After practice, Porter Jr. was asked how he feels health wise and what it will be like playing his first game in over a year.
“I feel good. I can’t wait to really just test myself in a real game. I haven’t played a game in awhile, so I’m really excited to play in a real game.”
Confidence is certainly something Porter Jr. does not lack, even if he has not played a game since March 16, 2018 when he was at Missouri.
“I want to be the best player on the floor every time I step out there. That hasn’t changed,” Porter Jr. said on the expectation he holds for himself. “I don’t want to start slow. I’m expecting to dominate and that’s what I want to do.”
That confidence is something Porter Jr’s teammates noticed throughout the season as a lot of them are expected to be attendece at Summer League.
“Yeah, everybody (laughs),” Porter Jr. said on his Nuggets teammates potentially making the trip to Vegas. “Guys are going out there that never really go out there. I know Paul is coming. Thrill’s — Will Barton — going to be there court side first game. Monte, Jamal, Malik, everybody’s coming up. Just showing support. I was with them all last year, so they are excited to watch me play.”
Porter Jr. says his teammates coming does “not really” have any affect on his nerves, but that he wants to play in a way that shows them he can be trusted. With the Nuggets bringing mostly their same roster back next season, Porter Jr. could be a welcomed addition to a team that might not add a lot this offseason.
Expectations are certainly high for Porter Jr., but they are something Nuggets summer league head coach Jordi Fernandez really does not want him focusing on.
“Just for him to enjoy playing,” Fernandez said on his expectations for Porter Jr. “Don’t overthink anything. Obviously a lot of things are going to go through his head and that is normal. But, what I can tell you right now is that he’s grown. He’s an older person now. You can tell with his approach and the way he works and I’m just happy to see it.”
Fernandez said there are no restrictions for Porter Jr., which is good news after he missed all last season recovering from low back surgery.
In just one day of practice, Porter Jr. has already left a good impression on one of his teammates as Jordan Davis described his game as, “It’s like watching 2k.” It might just be one day of practice, but Porter Jr. certainly caught Davis’ eye.
“He’s the real deal,” Davis said on Porter Jr. “I believe that, I’m not just saying that cause I’m around him now and he’s my teammate, he’s the real deal. That dude is real talented. If he didn’t get hurt in college he would have been arguably the number one pick. He’s real talented. Last week, I saw a couple times in a row, guys are all over him, fouling him, like falling on him, he shoots step-backs and is just making it. All net, he’s elite, I’ll give him that. He’s a really talented guy and a real better person and I’m excited just like everybody else.”
That excitement will blossom into the real deal on Friday night when Porter Jr. takes the floor at Thomas & Mack Arena in a Nuggets jersey for the first time.