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"I don’t want to deal with any problems ever again": Michael Porter Jr. focused on long-term health during rehab

Harrison Wind Avatar
October 8, 2018

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. drinks three smoothies a day. The 20-year-old, who grew up a vegetarian, starts his mornings off with an energy smoothie made by his sister stocked with bananas, mango, spinach, avocados and turmeric.

“A lot of green, weird stuff,” Porter told BSN Denver after signing autographs and taking pictures with fans at the PUMA outlet store in Thornton on Saturday.

Porter’s hoping his healthy background leads to a long and fruitful NBA career, one that’s currently in a holding pattern as the 6-foot-11 forward rehabs from surgery of the lumbar spine, which took place in July. It was Porter’s second lower back surgery in nine months. He’s currently without a timetable to return to basketball activities.

“I’m making progress every day,” Porter said. “So it’s all you can ask for.”

Since selecting Porter 14th overall this summer, the Nuggets have preached patience with their first-round pick. On draft night, Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly categorized Porter as a “long-term play,” and someone Denver could afford to draft because of the talent it’s returning from last season’s 46-win team.

Denver has maintained that line of thinking throughout the offseason and into training camp.

“We have a very good team coming back, we have a very deep team so there’s no reason for us to say ‘Michael’s got to play this year,’” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said in July. “We’re going to give him all the time and treatment he needs to get better and hopefully he can get back and help us this year.”

Like any athlete, let alone one that’s been on top of the basketball world for as long as he can remember rising through the high school ranks as a unanimous top prospect, Porter wants to get out on the floor as soon as possible. But he’s also cognizant that if he takes his rehab slow, there’s a better chance that he enjoys a long NBA career.

As of now, Porter doesn’t have a date in mind as to when he wants to return to the floor.

“Its day by day right now,” said Porter. “Of course I would love to get back sooner rather than later. But it’s just about being patient, being slow. I don’t want to deal with any problems ever again.”

Porter didn’t play at Summer League and wasn’t a participant at Nuggets training camp in San Diego, along with free agent signing Isaiah Thomas, who’s rehabbing from hip surgery, and fellow rookie Jarred Vanderbilt, who’s on the mend due to right foot surgery.

He’ll make the occasional appearances on the floor after Nuggets practices end, showing off the beautiful shooting stroke that helped the Columbia, Missouri, native become one of the most sought-after recruits in 2017 and the rare combination of size and fluidity that allowed him to average 36.2 points per game in high school.

After a Saturday practice at training camp, Porter dunked for the first time in front of reporters, showing a split-second a glimpse of what could be.

Nowadays, Porter is limited to mostly conditioning and core work. He’s also spending a lot of time in the weight room, building his body up for an eventual return to the floor. As Porter moves further along in his rehab, he’s ramping up his work on the court little by little.

“I feel really good. It’s slow but every week I’m doing more and more,” Porter said. “They want me to lightly ease into it. I’m out there on the court, doing a lot of stuff in the weight room, a lot of conditioning.”

Porter spoke Saturday while draped in Puma gear head to toe, a familiar look for the rookie who signed with the ambitious brand prior to the draft.

Puma re-introduced itself to the basketball world over the last few months, inking high-profile draft prospects to deals hoping to capture a segment of the prized NBA marketplace. This summer, Puma signed Porter along with a slew of NBA rookies including the first and second overall draft picks Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley, ninth overall pick Kevin Knox and Zhaire Smith, who the Phoenix Suns selected 16th.

The brand also recently inked Celtics point guard Terry Rozier to an endorsement contract and reportedly agreed to terms with DeMarcus Cousins on a shoe deal, which Nike has 10 days to match. Puma signed Cousins ahead of their Oct. 11 global launch date for the Clyde’s, Puma’s first basketball shoe in nearly 20 years.

Porter’s thrilled to be part of the Puma family. He’s flown on the Puma Jet, something he called “one of the coolest experiences” he’s had. Porter also works out in the brand’s signature shoe every day, the Puma Clyde Court Disrupts.

He hopes a signature shoe is in his future.

“The environment and how they take care of us, it’s like a family atmosphere,” Porter said. “They really do care for you. It’s not just all about the business. Second of all, their stuff is the flyest. Their lifestyle stuff, I love wearing what they put out.”

When will Porter, in his Clyde Court Disrupts, grace the NBA hardwood for the first time? He’s still a ways away. But Porter’s committed to taking his rehab slowly and doing everything he can to set himself up for a long NBA career, one smoothie at a time.

“It’s just about being patient,” Porter said.

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