Otto Porter Jr., the un-sexy prospect

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WASHINGTON — If the NBA Draft were dating, Otto Porter Jr. is the one all fathers would approve of. Dad never objects to the guy labeled “safe.” On Thursday, we’ll found out which team covets reliable over risk.

The Georgetown forward can do just about everything on the basketball court. Based on league chatter, that versatility apparently excites no one. That’s not to say the unanimous Big East Player of the Year lacks desirability among pundits and teams picking in slots one through six. It’s just not apparently in a lusty sort of way.

Draft Express:

“Porter appears to be one of the more safe picks in this year’s draft.”

SI.com’s Andy Glocker:

“Otto Porter may be the surest thing in the draft”

NBA scout on Porter:

“I think he’s the safest pick in the draft.”

The 6-foot-8 sophomore’s instinct-rich game with a significant defensive component and nary a trace of jock ego warms the heart, especially by those that catch his act repeatedly.

There just isn’t a high-rising component, though Porter’s 36-inch vertical more than gets the job done.

There just isn’t a textbook shooting stroke, though he improved his 3-point accuracy from 23 percent as a freshman to 42 last season.

There just isn’t any aspect of Porter’s game that is dynamic, at least not in a posterizing sort of way. However, there are no glaring weaknesses, no sense of wasted potential. That’s why his college coach uttered a one-word answer when queried about what kind of questions NBA teams are asking about his guy.

“None,” said a matter-of-fact John Thompson III after a brief pause to realize that oddity of what he was to say considering the million dollar stakes.

Thompson continued: “I’m biased, but I also think I’m right. I think he’s the most complete player in the draft at both ends of the court, the most ready player in the draft. I think people have seen that, he’s displayed that over the last couple of years.”

Indeed, teams know what they get if they draft Porter, as opposed to 7-foot-1 Alex Len, who both wowed and waned last season at Maryland. As opposed to UNLV forward Anthony Bennett, who offers an abundance of offensive weaponry, but often showed little interest in stopping opponents from using theirs. As opposed to Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, who is a shot-blocking savant but a point-producing novice with already two major knee injuries in his young career.

That’s why with Porter, who led the Hoyas in scoring (16.2), rebounds (7.5), steals (1.8) and 3-point shooting, everyone loves same variation of that “s” word.

ESPN’s Chad Ford on the Wizards’ possible debate at No. 3:

“Do they go with more of a sure thing (Porter) or gamble on the guy with more upside in (UNLV’s Anthony) Bennett?”

Thompson believes a certain “c” word is what makes Porter a potential gem.

“A word that is perhaps used too often, but applies — he’s coachable,” Thompson said. “I’ve told several teams, just figure out what you want him to do if you take him and tell him. Tell him what you want him to be able to do and he’ll be able to do it.”

Geez, where’s the fun, the drama with that?

Perhaps Porter’s closest draft doppelganger is the four inches shorter Victor Oladipo. Like the Indiana guard, Porter entered college under the national radar, is a defensive-minded player who made dramatic offensive strides this past season from long range. Of course, everyone fawns for Oladipo and his 42-inch vertical to the point where even his missed dunks are legendary.

Based purely on positional need, Porter is an obvious fit for the No.1 picking and small forward lacking Cleveland Cavaliers. Some reports have suggested Porter is atop Cleveland’s draft board. According to one source, the Cavs “want to take Porter,” but wanting and doing are not the same. Nary a highly cited mock draft has this scenario unfolding.

Most often projected to the Wizards, Porter recently worked out for the NBA team that plays in the same Verizon Center where Georgetown’s low-key leader starred last season. Washington could use a player capable of defending multiple positions who always seems one step ahead of the play as a passer and when it comes to anticipating tosses from others.

It’s just that on the surface that type of player doesn’t make for part of a desired “Big 3.” The Wizards may have an opportunity to snag a coveted building block center (Len, Noel) or add a potentially dynamic scorer (Bennett) for an offense that tied for last in that category.

Sheridan Sports:

“His ceiling may not be as high as UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, but Porter projects as a much safer pick.”

Oh, if you’re wondering why there are no quotes in here from Otto Porter Jr. himself, let’s just say talking about his own game is not one of the unassuming Missourian’s strengths. Then again, in this kingly era, a player not into self-promotion sounds very appealing. So does his parental-approved game.

Thompson’s playmaking a steadying force for defending champs

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Klay Thompson danced unabashedly in China after winning another NBA championship, and it got shared all over social media. He smoked a stogie on the rooftop, letting loose to reveal another side of himself.

“I didn’t plan for that video to go viral,” Thompson said matter-of-factly. “I was just having fun. I’ve always been myself and having fun while doing it and learning to enjoy every day, because it goes by so fast.”

Coming to that mindset, however, has been a process for the seventh-year Golden State guard, who acknowledges for so long he put extreme pressure on himself to be the best.

The quiet, more under-the-radar Warriors All-Star of the bunch, Thompson has provided a steadying hand early on for the reigning NBA champions who are favored to capture a third title in four years.

“I used to stress a lot more at the beginning of my career about my performance,” Thompson recalled. “Now, it’s not like I don’t stress, but I play more carefree and I’m more able, if I play as hard as I can I’m satisfied with the results. … I used to compare myself with all players and want to be the best so badly, but now it’s all about winning and having fun and realizing basketball is more of a team sport than anything.”

After a recent practice, Thompson dazzled right alongside a couple of visiting Harlem Globetrotters, spinning the ball on his finger, rolling it up and down his arms, off his knee and then a foot soccer-style before swishing a short jumper.

“I should’ve been a Globetrotter!” he yelled.

It’s a new look for this hang-loose, beach-loving Splash Brother.

The approach is working for the Warriors.

“He still carries the threat. You have to honor him,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s great at making the right play. Their whole team is. I think he’s trying to fit in with their whole buy-in that ball movement and passing is greater than any one man carrying the bulk of it.”

Still, his numbers are stellar. Thompson has had a fast start this season, which previously hasn’t been the case.

Thompson credits the familiarity with teammates and a comfort in coach Steve Kerr’s offense.

“He’s taken another step in his game. Just the experience that he’s had in his career, every year he’s gotten better and I think this year he’s shown how at the end of the season he carried it over to the beginning of this year,” backcourt mate Stephen Curry said. “Historically he hadn’t started seasons well but this year he’s locked in. He’s obviously shooting the ball well and playing great defense, but I think the biggest thing is his playmaking in situations where he’s drawing a crowd. He’s making great decisions setting guys up and just playing under control for the most part this entire season.”

Life off the court is great for Thompson, too, and that helps him be stress-free on it.

Look closely, and it’s easy to see he has come out of his shell.

On a day off last week, he golfed a popular public course close to Oracle Arena. Thompson signed someone’s toaster last spring, and it became a superstition.

In July, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at an Oakland Athletics game, then drove an IndyCar in September while serving as Grand Marshal of a series stop in Sonoma.

Thompson shares his training tricks on social media and posts photos with his bulldog, Rocco.

He recently donated $75,000 to relief efforts in the aftermath of the devastating Northern California wildfires, committing $1,000 per point for a three-game stretch during which he scored 69 points – but added to that total.

He is a spokesman for chocolate milk and an obscure – in the U.S. anyway – Chinese shoe company. He signed an $80 million, 10-year extension to wear the sneakers.

“Life’s good,” Thompson said. “I never thought I’d get paid millions of dollars to wear shoes and apparel. I’m very proud to be a part of Anta. … It’s so cool that I’m big in China. I never thought I’d be on billboards and posters in China.”

Thompson has found a balance during the offseason to stay sharp, mixing up his workouts with outdoor activities he enjoys.

“It took years for me to figure out how to prepare the best I can for the season. I finally learned in my sixth year,” he said. “You’ve got to stay in shape almost year-round because as you get older it’s harder to get back into shape. It’s easier to get out of shape than it is to get back into shape. I do other things besides basketball to stay in shape in the offseason. I think that just keeps my mind fresh.”

He hopes to do a formal swim from Alcatraz, or even a triathlon. He swims in the ocean – “my favorite place in the world” – whenever he can. Freestyle is his strength, butterfly not so much. He plays hours of beach volleyball or just throws the football around and runs routes through the sand.

At work, he has been a model of consistency. Thompson is determined to be a better passer, creating for teammates whenever possible. He also usually guards the opponent’s top perimeter scorer.

Thompson is off to his best shooting season ever, with career highs of 49.4 percent shooting from the field and 45.6 percent on 3-pointers.

“I think his playmaking has been the best it’s been in his career,” Kerr said. “He’s really doing a good job of putting the ball on the floor and moving it on, drive and kick game, finding the centers in the pocket for little floaters. … It’s been his best passing season so far.”

Thompson used to get teased for his lack of assists, and it remains a running joke.

“I got thick skin,” Thompson quipped, “honestly I don’t really care.”

That carefree approach has taken time, and the Warriors are better for it.

 

Report: Mark Cuban in process to buy Mavericks’ G-League team

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There will come a day, in the not too distant future, when every NBA team will have an owned and affiliated G-League team. It will be a place for them to develop young players — guys they drafted but need more run than they’d get in the NBA, guys on two-way contracts, and just players they like and want to give a chance. The NBA is more and more becoming a development league — and if the one-and-done rule is replaced with something akin to the baseball rule for players going to college, having a strong G-League team will matter even more.

Which is why the news that Mark Cuban is about to buy the G-League team already affiliated with the Mavericks makes sense. Marc Stein of The New York Times broke the news.

While the name of the guys signing the checks will change with the Texas Legends, little else will.

It’s just another sign of the future in the NBA.

Isaiah Thomas is up for a Cavaliers vs. Celtics playoff clash

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Isaiah Thomas says he has moved on from the trade this summer that caught him off guard, shipping him from Boston — where he was a fan favorite — to Cleveland.

Sort of. Like a lot of sudden relationship ends, Thomas says he’s moved on, but it doesn’t sound like he totally has yet. Look at what he told Sam Amick of the USA Today in an interesting Q&A.

“I’ve put it behind me, and I’ve continued to try to do that… But other than that, every day that I’m in the gym or that I’m on the court or in the weight room or doing whatever I have to do to get back to who I was, and get back to being 100 percent healthy, yes I do use it as motivation.”

Thomas has yet to set foot on the court as a Cavalier, spending the start of the season rehabbing a hip injury. He’s expected back next month.

It’s very early in the NBA season, we’re not at 20 games or even Thanksgiving yet, but it has become evident that the Cavaliers have some legitimate defensive concerns, and that the Boston Celtics are a legitimate threat to them.

That would set up a series between Thomas’ old team that he’s still a little angry at, and his new team in Cleveland. And Thomas is good with that.

“Oh, that would be lovely. That would be the story that God made, and it probably will work that way. It always does. It always works – I’m not going to say in my favor, but it seems to always work out no matter what the circumstance is. That would be a special moment. If they make it there, and we make it there, and then we clash, and then you never know what’s going to happen. But I’ll be ready for whatever happens.”

Not enough NBA players use the word “lovely” anymore.

But I’m with Thomas, I want to see that series, too.

Cavaliers’ Derrick Rose out two more weeks due to sprained ankle

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With Isaiah Thomas still rehabbing, the Cleveland Cavaliers have had to lean more on Derrick Rose at the point, when he is available (he’s only played in half of Cleveland’s games). More Rose has not been good for Cleveland’s defense, and it’s forced Tyronn Lue to play Kevin Love more at center just to have enough shooting on the floor, so there are driving lanes for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Now we will have to see what Lue and the Cavaliers do without Rose for a couple more weeks. Rose will be out for a couple of weeks with his sprained left ankle, the team announced Friday afternoon.

“Due to continued symptoms, the ankle will be immobilized in a boot for the next week and he will also undergo an extended treatment process over the next two to three weeks.”

Rose has averaged 14.3 points on 47 percent shooting this season in Cleveland.

With Rose and Thomas out, Cleveland has gone with Iman Shumpert technically as the point, although LeBron handles the playmaking duties. He brings some size to the position, but he can’t defend quick point guards well (not that Rose could). This new lineup has won the Cavaliers a couple of games in a row, although that has been far more about their offense making runs rather than their struggling defense (last in the NBA) stepping up.

It’s been tough to get a feel for this Cavaliers team and what they really are this season, in part due to all the injuries. This simply adds to that mess.

The Cavaliers take on the slumping Clippers Friday night.