Jul 14, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT
LAS VEGAS — Wizards forward Otto Porter answered questions on Saturday regarding free agent Trevor Ariza’s decision to leave Washington. Ariza started at small forward last season, including during Washington’s run to the second round of the Eastern Conference postseason. The No. 3 overall pick in 2013 draft, Porter, well, let’s just say his minutes were scarce. Ariza leaving might alter that scenario.
Following Washington’s opening win over Atlanta in the Las Vegas summer league, Porter said, “I mean, hey, the door opens up.”
Yes, a door for playing time and opportunity had opened.
Paul Pierce walked through it.
The Wizards agreed to terms with the 16-year veteran on a two-year contract for approximately $11 million late Saturday night. Pierce becomes the clear starting 3-man option next season and a natural mentor for Porter.
“It’s a blessing…to have a guy like Paul Pierce coming to this team, especially for a guy like Otto,” Wizards summer league coach Sam Cassell said following Washington’s win over Minnesota on Sunday night. “To have that kind of leadership, that of experience come to your team. He’s going uplift this whole ball club.”
For the six or so hours in between Ariza’s departure and Pierce’s stunning arrival, fans could ponder whether the rising second-year forward from Georgetown might be ready for the starting gig.
That’s because Porter gave them reason to dream with a commanding performance in Washington’s summer league opener versus Atlanta on Saturday. He scored 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and played with confidence not seen since his college days.
Postgame questions included whether Porter thought he could start. One day later, the soft-spoken Missourian answered queries about the man who likely will.
“Kinda figured they were going to get somebody,” Porter said on Sunday. “Great pickup. The Truth!”
Though the wing spots are rather crowded, Porter can still carve out a niche after playing in only 37 games as a rookie. Pierce, who turns 37 in October, played a career-low 28 minutes per game last season. Martell Webster could miss the start of the regular season after undergoing back surgery in June.
Now Porter has one of the NBA’s ultimate winners ready to help dispense knowledge.
“It’s great. (Paul) plays my position. He’s a leader, he’s been a champion. Just to have that on my side, it helps a lot especially first, second year,” Porter said.
Though this own all-court game and leadership showed Sunday versus Minnesota, Porter’s shot didn’t as he went 6 of 15 off for 13 points. Glen Rice Jr., Washington’s other rising second-year wing, led the way with 20 points as the Wizards improved to 2-0.
Rice learned tricks of the game from his NBA All-Star father. He’s excited for his newest teacher.
“I just want to ask (Paul) how he draws fouls and gets his shots up so well,” said Rice, who like Porter received limited minutes as a rookie. “He’s got to teach me a couple of little things. He knows something that I don’t know.”
Now that is the truth. Here’s another one: Paul Pierce will help the Wizards beyond Porter and Rice. If his presence does indeed aid in the young duo’s development, nobody will have to dream about Porter playing a larger role. He just will. Truth.
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