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.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George call out Zaza Pachulia for “dirty” fall on Westbrook

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Zaza Pachulia has a reputation. The league even created a rule — the “Zaza rule”  — after he stepped under Kawhi Leonard last playoffs and twisted the forward’s ankle, ending Leonard’s playoffs and the Spurs chances.

Then Saturday night, as the Warriors pulled away in the second half and routed the Thunder, this play happened, where Pachulia fell on Westbrook’s leg.

While there was some contact, was that really enough to knock Pachulia over? It doesn’t look like it, it looks intentional, but remember Pachulia falls into a lot of guys — including Kevin Durant last season. This, however, was ugly.

After the game Westbrook and Paul George called Pachulia out.

Even the Celtics’ Kyrie Irving chipped in on this.

It will be interesting to see if the league does follow up. There is some history here.

After two lopsided losses to OKC, Kevin Durant leads Warriors rout

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 28 points for Golden State while avenging an embarrassing home loss to his former Oklahoma City team earlier this month and another on the road in November, leading the Warriors past the Thunder 112-80 on Saturday night.

Stephen Curry added 21 points with five 3-pointers, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals as Golden State put on the kind of defensive performance coach Steve Kerr has been seeking from the defending champs.

Russell Westbrook had 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for Oklahoma City, which failed to reach 100 points for the first time in the last five games. The Thunder had scored at least 100 in 14 of their last 16.

Durant’s pretty layup off a perfect pass by Curry with 3:06 left in the third put the Warriors up 75-66. That was part of a 37-11 Golden State run that included 30 points over the final 8:48 of the third – when Zaza Pachulia subbed in to relieve JaVale McGee.

The Warriors held Paul George to five points. George’s 3-pointer at the 7:52 mark of the third with Durant’s hand in his face was his first basket after going 0 for 9 to begin the game. He finished 1 for 14 after going off for 38 points in the last meeting when Oklahoma City left Oracle Arena with a 125-105 rout on Feb. 6.

Golden State also lost at OKC by 17 on Nov. 22.

Draymond Green added 10 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He picked up his 15th technical of the season with 1:04 left in the first half, moving him within one of an automatic suspension. That came after Durant and Carmelo Anthony pushed, shoved, yelled from close range and had to be separated, receiving double technicals.

It was a testy rematch after the Warriors received five technical fouls in the previous meeting. That prompted general manager Bob Myers to address the importance of keeping poised.

Durant announced his decision to join the Warriors and leave OKC on July 4, 2016, making him an instant villain in his former city.

He scored 33 in the Feb. 6 meeting but got plenty of help this time.

Earlier this month against the Thunder, Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 11 of 27 from the floor and 4 for 15 on 3-pointers as the Warriors lost for the third time in four games. Thompson had 11 points Saturday, shooting just 1 for 11 from deep.

The Warriors on Saturday improved to 8-1 this season in the next game against an opponent after losing the previous meeting.

After Shaun Livingston‘s jumper at the 8:47 mark of the second quarter, Golden State went nearly five minutes without scoring before Curry’s basket at 4:51 started a 7-0 burst.

The Thunder grabbed eight offensive rebounds in the opening quarter to score 10 second-chance points, with Westbrook getting eight boards and George five. But Oklahoma City went 2 for 11 on 3s in the initial 12 minutes – Anthony, George and Westbrook a combined 1 of 8.

 

Steve Kerr “disappointed” in alma mater Arizona; wants to see NCAA follow new model

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Before he was the coach of the Golden State Warriors, before he was a five-time NBA Champion playing next to Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan, Steve Kerr was one of the great players the University of Arizona ever produced. The crowd would echo the announcer after ever made three — “Steeeve Keerrr” — where he was an All-American and helped lead a team (with future NBA players Sean Elliott and Tom Tolbert) to the Final Four.

There is a crisis around Arizona basketball right now. Coach Sean Miller was caught on a federal wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment for star recruit Deandre Ayton (expected to be a high lottery pick in June, possibly the No. 1 pick). Miller did not coach Saturday and changes are coming to Arizona.

Kerr was asked about it before the Warriors took on the Thunder Saturday.

Kerr said he was “disappointed” in his alma mater over the incident. Which is understandable.

Not to completely excuse it, but what Miller got caught doing is commonplace — money is funneled to families or the players of top recruits on a regular basis. What is more troubling (in my mind) is the money paid under the table to AAU coaches, family members, and others close to elite recruits to funnel them to a specific “financial planner” or agent, or a specific university. People in positions of trust with the player are bought and paid for.

Kerr put out one solution that would certainly be a big step forward: follow the Olympics model and let elite players get sponsorships that don’t end their college eligibility.

This system has its flaws as well, but it gets some of the dirty money out in the open. It would be better than the hypocritical facade of amateurism the NCAA has hit behind for years.

Joel Embiid has 28 points, 14 rebounds leads Sixers to Seventh straight win

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid had 28 points and 14 rebounds, and the Philadelphia 76ers extended their season-high win streak to seven with a 116-105 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday.

Six 76ers scored in double figures. Ben Simmons had 17 points and seven assists, and 3-point specialist J.J. Redick added 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting – and just one 3-pointer. Marco Belinelli had 15 points, Robert Covington had 12 and Dario Saric scored 11.

Aaron Gordon led Orlando with 20 points, including four 3s, to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. Evan Fournier scored 16 points, and former Sixer Nik Vucevic had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Magic, who have lost five straight.

Philadelphia led 58-40 at halftime and 71-49 in the third when Orlando used an 11-2 burst, capped by Aaron Gordon’s 3-pointer, to close within 13.

But the Sixers put on a show to finish the quarter.

Embiid overpowered a few Magic defenders for a slam, and then gestured to the crowd after being fouled while soaring to the hoop on a dunk attempt. After Embiid and Trevor Booker swatted consecutive shots in the final seconds, T.J. McConnell used a crossover move to finish a drive at the buzzer and give the Sixers an 87-71 lead entering the fourth.

Orlando used a late 15-2 run to get within nine and nearly cut it to six with 1:21 left, but a 3-point attempt by Mario Hezonja spilled out.

Midway through the first quarter, Philadelphia had more turnovers (three) than field goals (two) and trailed 15-6. The Sixers then erupted for a 21-3 run and ended the quarter up 27-18.

E-A-G-L-E-S

Orlando head coach Frank Vogel wore an Eagles Super Bowl champions T-shirt during his pregame media availability. A native of Wildwood, New Jersey, Vogel makes sure to get a taste of home when he returns to the Philadelphia area.

“Cheesesteaks, Tastykakes, Yuengling beer if we beat the Sixers,” Vogel said. “Wawa coffee, but I get Wawa in Orlando now. I did get a cheesesteak today.”

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell before the game.

“I think it’s awesome,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “He can come over and ring as many bells as he chooses.”