It wasn’t the introductory press conference that Toronto Raptors fans might have been hoping for — no offence to OPJ, he’s not KD.
But Otto Porter Jr. is in a Raptors uniform for real and for now, while the prospect of Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant being delivered here is a wish, and maybe one that Toronto needs to be careful about.
In the meantime, the world keeps turning and in a slightly unexpected collision of events, it has brought the respected veteran — fresh off a title with the Golden State Warriors — to the Raptors.
And rather than Porter Jr. needing to be coaxed and educated about playing in Toronto, the nine-year veteran was all in from the jump.
“I had some other offers, but this was definitely a place that I wanted to go to,” Porter Jr. said. “You know, my wife is from here, it’s just a lot easier for the family. It’s a great organization, great team, young team that has aspirations to get back to the top. And with winning the championship with Golden State, I feel like I can bring that experience here to help the younger guys out with doing that again. “… [But] I’ve been here actually in the summer time so I know a lot about the city, I know about the people and the winters — I know a lot.”
The Raptors know a fair bit about him, too. He’s a player the Raptors have been monitoring ever since they went against him in playoff series in 2015 and 2018 when Porter was with the Washington Wizards. The Wizards had drafted him No. 3 overall in 2013 and rewarded him with a $105-million extension on his rookie contract — the maximum allowable at the time — as he established himself as an elite three-point shooter who could hold his own defensively against some of the NBA’s best wing scorers.
But it’s another connection that played a part in Porter Jr. signing with the Raptors on a two-year, $12.4 million deal.
Prior to his season with Golden State, injuries had limited the six-foot-eight forward to just 42 games over the previous two seasons as he struggled with hip tightness, back problems and foot issues at times. With the Warriors, he played 63 regular-season games and another 19 in the playoffs, establishing himself as a key reserve and piece in some of the Warriors’ most effective lineups.
The Warriors limited his minutes he averaged just 22.2 minutes a game and was often rested for one half of back-to-backs. His health was managed by Rick Celebrini, the Warriors director of sports medicine and performance, a Canadian who trained under the Raptors’ vice-president of player health and performance, Alex McKechnie.
“That’s their mentor,” said Porter Jr. “I’ve heard a lot about Alex and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
The work he did do with the Warriors helped revive his career, and Porter Jr. is hopeful that his success last year will continue and allow him to provide bench production and lineup flexibility with the Raptors.
“[Last season] just showed that I can get back to that level, I can play at a high level. You just see all the hard work paid off in the off-season, getting your body ready,” said Porter Jr. “…It’s a long season, especially when you get to the playoffs and it’s about who’s the healthiest at the end of the year.”
Porter Jr. is confident the Raptors — as currently configured — can be a post-season factor. The addition of his ability to spread the floor — he’s a career 40 per cent three-point shooter — and his fit with head coach Nick Nurse’s switching schemes on defence should be a plus for a young team that won 48 games last season and is gunning for more.
“I’ve been in the league for so long and going to a team that has vets and a mixture of young guys, I’ve seen what it took to put it all together,” he said. “I think that I learned a lot from being in Golden State that I can bring to this team, especially with the younger guys.
“You’ve got some young guys that grew up here and won a championship so just to bring some more veterans, leadership qualities to the team to continue to piece it together and continue to pretty much work together and try to get to that level again.”