Denver Nuggets rookie forward Michael Porter Jr. got an opportunity to show the world he has recovered from back surgery, and did so in exciting fashion as he poured in a career-high 37 points to lead the Nuggets to an overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.
Porter rewarded his coach’s faith.
“I said, ‘Michael, I’m not going anywhere,'” Malone said of the text conversation. “I’m gonna stay with you.”
“He was outstanding, obviously,” Malone said. “My biggest disappointment with Michael in the Miami game was the rebounding. He had one rebound in that game. We’ve all grown accustomed to see Michael rebounding at an elite level, and tonight he did that. That’s who he is.
“He’s got tremendous size, length, he can score the ball, he’s got soft touch, he does so in a very efficient manner, but he can also rebound at a very high level, and tonight we saw all those things put together.”
Porter, 22, was the 14th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and has now finally been able to validate his high draft status, and the organization’s faith and patience.
Porter scored a career-high 37 points with 12 rebounds in the 121-113 overtime victory, and in doing so became the first Nuggets rookie with 35 points and 10 rebounds since Carmelo Anthony accomplished the feat back in 2004.
“He’s very, very talented,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of Porter.”The unfortunate part for him is, I think, he’s dealt with a lot of injuries throughout his career and he’s probably learned a lot, maybe not really getting an opportunity to play a whole lot because their team has been so good.
“But he’s got great potential … the biggest thing for him has probably been having to learn their rotations defensively and those kind of things. But he’s very, very gifted.”
“I just told him that I knew I could bring a lot more,” Porter said. “I didn’t bring the energy and I didn’t bring the effort and enthusiasm the last game. And that can never be the case.”
“Especially with Jamal, Gary and Will out, I got to be a guy that steps up and kind of takes on more of a role,” Porter added. “I told him that I understand that and that it wouldn’t happen again.”
“For me, it’s like a different focus,” Porter said. “Because in high school, every single game, I had to carry the scoring load and do that. But on this team, I don’t have to do that. I can’t focus on that. All I got to focus on is bringing the energy and effort and locking in on defense and the rest will take care of itself.
“This is a big opportunity for me,” he added. “Obviously, we can’t wait for Will, Gary and Jamal to come back. But for me to be in that starting position, I worked really hard, so now is a good opportunity for me to really show what I can do.”