Otto Porter dominates 2014 summer league debut as Wizards ponder post-Trevor Ariza solution

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LAS VEGAS — After fizzling as a rookie, Wizards forward Otto Porter sizzled in his 2014 Las Vegas Summer League. Despite an irrelevant first NBA campaign, the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s draft remains a key part of Washington’s future along with John Wall and Bradley Beal.

With the news that free agent Trevor Ariza will sign with the Houston Rockets, Porter’s game needs to improve enough to help the Wizards in the present.

“I mean, hey, the door opens up,” Porter said on Saturday following Washington’s summer league opener. “(Trevor) had a tremendous year last year. … Now it’s time for people to step up and fill those shoes.”

If the former Georgetown star’s performance on Saturday in the Wizards 90-74 win over the Atlanta Hawks at the Thomas & Mack Center carries forward, Porter might become Washington’s best post-Ariza world solution.

Playing with confidence and aggression not seen since his college days, Porter led the Wizards with 25 points — including 14 in the third quarter — on 11-of-16 shooting from the field with seven rebounds. The deft mid-range that helped carry him to All-American honors in 2013 helped carry Washington to an easy win. Porter also shined as a passer and controlled the game along with fellow rising second-year wing Glen Rice Jr., who added 22 points.

“Glen and Otto have been working hard all summer,” Wizards summer league head coach Sam Cassell said. “It shows what hard work does. It pays off. … Second half, I told Otto I don’t care how many shots you miss. I just want you to put J’s up. He played well.”

Rarely did Porter play well as a rookie. Actually, he rarely played as a rookie after missing the opening weeks with a hip injury. In 37 games, Porter averaged 2.1 points, never reaching double digits in a single game. That came after hamstring woes kept Porter out for most of last year’s summer league.

The soft-spoken forward loudly dominated in his return to Las Vegas.

“That’s why Sam gave me control of the team. ‘Hey, this is your team. It falls on you and Glen. You’ve got to lead these guys to victory,’” Porter said of his leadership role.

The last time he scored at least 25 points, March 2, 2013. Against Rutgers. That season was also the last time Porter said he felt as comfortable on the court as he did Saturday.

“He took a whole year off last year,” Cassell said, referring to Porter’s limited role. “His mechanics (are) coming back, his fundamentals (are) coming back. Glen and Otto, they’re my least worries on this basketball team.”

Moments after the game, Porter learned that Ariza, a mentor last season, was no longer his teammate.

“He was one of my veteran guys,” Porter said. “I was kind of hoping he would (stay). But at the same time, hey, this is a business.”

Part of the reason why minutes were scarce last season stemmed from playing behind Ariza and Martell Webster. Now Ariza is gone and Webster is recovering from his third back surgery since 2010. Now might be time for Porter to show Washington’s front office that they don’t need to worry or add a notable player in free agency. The small forward solution already exists.

“To have (Trevor) gone – he taught me so much, especially on offense and defense,” Porter said. “Being there, showing me the right things, tricks ins and outs. Got to put them to work, put them to use.”

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.