Otto Porter’s Magical Night: A Tale of Readiness
A young boy had his ‘make-a-wish’ dream come true in Washington, D.C.
Much to the intent of the Wizards’ offensive design (around John Wall), recent National Basketball Association draft pick Otto Porter, Jr. scored his first professional 3-point field goal on Monday night after 10 unsuccessful attempts in his career thus far. And then he scored another. They were huge, although his team later lost.
When not hypothetically in the game, Porter has been hypothetically baking cupcakes in his spare time. So, you can imagine the hypothetical surprise on the faces of hypothetical fans who battled snow fatigue to see the Wizards get fatigued by the Memphis Grizzlies upon discovering that Otto had carefully placed one of his #OttoCake cupcakes in each of their seats, hypothetically.
Either way, ‘stay ready’ is a real thing. No, it’s not necessarily ‘stay ready’ (for Otto) in case larger players with bigger muscles go down and you need to find whatever bench-atrophied muscle is available to supplant the absences. Sure, Drew Gooden and Chris Singleton aren’t the most ideal of ideals, but to the chagrin and angst of #OttoFans, the Porter only weighs 198 pounds, just three pounds heavier than the lightest guys on the team, John Wall and Garrett Temple. Maybe one day he’ll be heavy, but now it’s understandable that situations call for Chris Singleton–in his third NBA season and an inch taller and 30 pounds heavier than Porter–to play the 4 position. Singleton has had his chances (51 starts as a rookie), but he’s also waited his time (just 18 appearances this season). Otto can wait for his.
So, no, Porter should not be fielding time in front of any bastardly renditions of bigger basketball players, especially not against a team like Memphis, but probably against everyone. Otherwise, many misunderstand their own misunderstanding and ask, with pitchfork in hand, ‘WHY IS THERE NO REASON THAT OTTO PORTER CAN’T GET 10 MINUTES PER GAME?!?’
Because, my friend, 10 minutes is a lot of fucking minutes*. Are you out of your fucking mind?
[* For a team desperate to make the playoffs with a healthy roster.]
But, alas, the game against Memphis happened to appear at the intersection of ‘be ready’ and reality. Martell Webster, backup wing player, i.e., Otto Porter’s position, was a late scratch due to a sore back that he tweaked in Philadelphia on Saturday. Otto would get his much-yearned-for but not necessarily deserved chance. Because, well, his team needed him, and the time was finally right.
The first coaching tactic seemed aimed to get Otto two-plus minutes of run at the end of the second quarter. But Bradley Beal free throw attempts (Otto was checking in for him), and the lack of a whistled dead ball afterward limited Porter’s run to about 46 seconds. Nonetheless, he finished with an admirable first-half stat line: 2 slapped fives, 1 ‘OK, coach’, 1 facial expression, 1 kind heart.
Porter was again put in at the end of the third quarter … with 15 seconds left; But this time the presumption was that he would continue to get run early in the fourth quarter for the shorthanded Wizards. And boy, did he.
The scrambled play started when Andre Miller tried to use a screen set by Marcin Gortat. The result was like that prank where someone kneels down behind an unsuspecting “vic” while someone else pushes said vic over the human bench. Except Andre Miller was the human bench and teammate Marcin Gortat was the vic. The loose ball ended up in Otto’s hands, and, true to coaching instruction advising him to ‘do it’ and ‘be ready’, Otto ran clean past defenders, through the back of the end zone, and through members of the Crimson Tide band before disappearing into a tunnel, i.e., he ran a half moon beyond the 3-point arc, made himself aware that the shot clock ticking down to zero meant something, turned around, and let it fly in a manner that made Mike Miller jealous.
A make. A celebration. Unbelievability.
Otto continued to stay in the game, providing quality minutes by finding the right spots and keeping his body warm, sometimes by blowing into his fist, so that the geo-tracking via SportVU missile cameras would always know where he was. Later on, given space by
the aforementioned Mike Miller, Otto would fire a 3-pointer without conscience, and miss. Time for Trevor Ariza to give Otto a rest (at the 7:21 mark of the final period), but Porter nonetheless stayed ready.
With 4:45 left in the game and the Wizards down by 17 points, Otto reentered the fray to spell Bradley Beal. Spots, positioning, readiness, just learning. At the 2:15 mark, Porter got his defender moving, penetrated into the lane, and tossed up a runner as would a kitten with a ball of yarn. Yep, he missed. Yep, it was a crappy-looking shot. But soon after, another 3-pointer. And it was BIG.
Ariza, in an act of cleanliness next to godliness, brought the ball down on the break after snagging a steal and with the Wizards nursing a seven-point deficit. Ariza knew that Memphis’ defense would be focused on him, and maybe he even knew that firing a 3-point shot off the dribble would not be so good. There was young Otto, trailing down the middle of the court and wide open. Ariza-bruh giveth and Otto-lil-bro provideth.
Otto released the dead-on shot, afterward taking steps inward while holding his release in the air. (See? He followed his shot … /coaching.) Buckets. Ariza threw a knock-out, celebratory fist punch, fans went nuts, a baby was born and was named after Otto right on the spot. Meanwhile, young Porter got excited, too, flailing both arms in
jubilation until they awkwardly crossed in a tangle. The Wizards were suddenly within four points with 77 seconds left. Memphis immediately called a timeout and en route to the bench, Otto clapped for himself, he clapped for his team, he clapped for the comeback, he clapped for the pleasure of existing on the hardwood as one might do during a private moment after finding out that, yes, the puppy did survive cancer. He will live. We will live.
Thin-slicing, it wasn’t that great of a performance by Otto. Yes, he did not travel upon first touch of the ball, nor did he simply let the ball slip from his hands like a bar of soap, evoking slide-whistle sounds in your head; there was nary a turnover from the rookie.
Otto looked comfortable on the court, he is beginning to belong. So, we’ll call that progress. Otherwise, Earl Boykins, Mo Evans, even Chris Singleton, have all managed to hit two 3-pointers in a game over the past several seasons while maintaining a single-digit point performance. Join the club. (At this juncture it would be worth noting that Porter’s two 3s kept him a point shy of a career-high of seven.)
But all of this right here? Merely forgettable pixels. Otto will make us forget with better performances, at least that’s the idea. He will get more chances … when they come. He will stay ready … for his chances. No one has to scream “Our time!” from the bottom of the Goonies well (or the Otto Porter Twitter argument rabbit hole), because “Our time” doesn’t mean that wads will be blown on forced minutes for a 20-year-old cub who is simply not as ready for the NBA as his ability to ‘stay ready’.
And that’s OK. Otto’s time will come once again, sooner or later, and he better be ready.
A Big 3-Pointer for Otto.
Randy Wittman on a Dash of Otto.