Michael Porter Jr. says he is pain free after second back surgery, hopes to play early in season

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Concerns about Michael Porter Jr.‘s back — he only played five games at Missouri following a microdiscectomy, then needed another surgery this summer — was the primary reason a guy once seen as a top three player in this draft class slid down to the Nuggets at No. 14 last June.

Denver, with a deep team looking to make the playoffs this season, can be patient and gamble on the potential payoff down the line.

Porter, like all players, is just eager to get on the court. He says he is now pain-free after the second surgery and hopes to be on the court early in the season. He spoke with Chris Forsberg of ESPN at Sunday NBA annual rookie photo shoot:

“I finally feel, like, good,” and he is hoping to be ready for game action around the time the season tips in mid-October.

“I don’t have a date but I’m hoping to be back for the beginning of the year. Gotta heal up, but I feel great,” Porter said. “I’m able to get on the court a little bit right now, do some different things. But my rehab has definitely been very conservative. They’re really taking it easy with me, being patient with me.”

Players tend to be the worst predictors of when they will return to the court following injuries — they think of themselves and invincible and they are competitors who just want to play. Teams and team doctors tend to take a longer view.

Which is to say, expect it to be later than mid-October before we see Porter Jr. on the court. The Nuggets have not given a timeline.

Porter likely will be eased back in during the course of the season, but on a team hunting a playoff slot in the deep West, there are not going to be a lot of “we need to develop this guy slowly” minutes available. Porter can play the three or the four, but the Nuggets are pretty stacked along the front line (Paul Millsap and Trey Lyles likely get the bulk of the minutes at the four), however, at the three there could be minutes behind Will Barton and others. We’ll see how the Nuggets’ rotation shakes out once the season starts, and where Porter can fit into it.

It may be frustrating for Porter, but the Nuggets are going to bring him along slowly. This is a long play for them, not about getting him out there as fast as they can.