During the All-Star break, when Otto Porter should've been in New Orleans launching red, white and blue moneyballs in the three-point contest, he was buried under a hood of a car in Morley, Mo.
The 6-8 forward for the Wizards, who'll be extended a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent this summer, wouldn't have it any other way.
He ignored the clamoring for the NBA to put one of the league's top long-ball shooters in 2016-17 in the contest.
He'd rather bond with his father and listen to his family's vintage Plymouth Road Runner hum.
"Home is where the heart is. Why would you change that?" said Porter, who spent All-Star week in his hometown at his parents' house which is the same place he grew up. "Population of 700. Probably 699 now that I left."
That's Porter. He cooled after a blistering start to his fourth season, second as a starter, to average 13.4 points, 51.6% overall shooting and 43.4% from thee-point range. All were career-highs as were his 6.4 rebounds.
The Wizards aren't in the same position as they were last summer with Bradley Beal, who was a restricted free agent. They moved quickly to re-sign him to $128 million. They'll have less room under the cap this time coupled with Porter being a completely different player.Wall and Beal are the two best players who are at their best with the ball because they create for others, too. Porter is best off the ball, as he relies on movement, angles and spotting up to get his shots.
Every good team needs someone like Porter, who won't pout if he doesn't get 15 shots each night and will sacrifice for the greater good. He's ego-less. But does that mean the Wizards won't dig deep to pay $100 million-plus to retain his services? They could qualify him at 125% of this season's $5.9 million salary which would officially make him restricted, allow him to test the market and bring back an offer sheet and if he does they'll have 72 hours to match it. If the offer sheet is low, that works in the Wizards' favor. If it's at the higher end and they don't match it, Porter walks and nothing is gained in return.
Free agency is a supply-and-demand market like any other industry. If there's a dearth of talent available and a lot of teams are in need of that product -- see Beal last summer with the next best shooting guard Dwyane Wade -- the pricetag skyrockets. After Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward, neither of whom are in the Wizards' wheelhouse, there's Danilo Gallinari (five years older, injury prone), Rudy Gay (seven years older, coming off Achilles tear), Andre Igoudala (nine years older) and the like.
Porter, however, has another thing going for him. He's theirs. The Wizards developed him after a hip injury slowed him as a rookie and he spent his sophomore season as an apprentice under Paul Pierce. The Wizards moved up in the 2013 lottery from eighth to No. 3 which put them in position to draft what they considered to be the safest bet. While the Cleveland Cavaliers bombed with Anthony Bennett at No. 1 and the Orlando Magic gambled on Victor Oladipo at No. 2 only to trade him last season, the Wizards' selection never was in doubt.
If the Wizards were to come to terms with Wall on a veteran extension that could approach $170 million, that likely would limit what they could offer Porter. But there are a lot of moving pieces to the puzzle before figuring out a number that would work for both sides.
Porter spent two years at Georgetown. His agent, David Falk, is here, too. There's no drama with Porter, who avoided the AAU circuit as an elite high school player. He prefers to keep it simple which is in perfect line with how he was raised.
"That's just how I grew up playing basketball, with my father and my family. We didn't need AAU, really," he said. "We had so much family that was my AAU."
When he goes back to Morley, he stays with his parents. He gets the house all to himself when his brother is at college. He'd much rather talk about cars than the business of the NBA and contracts.
"That's my second love. Not a question. That's just something I enjoy off the court," Porter said of being a mechanic. "Majority of the day. Everyday, really.
"My father, his brothers always worked on cars. I was always around when they were fixing cars up. I took a big interest in cars when I was young. It's relaxing to my mind, body and my soul."
He'll be 24 next month. Porter exploded for a career-high 34 points and 14 rebounds in a Nov. 9 win the Boston Celtics, He had 32 and 14 in a win against the Milwaukee Bucks the following month.
Before the calendar year ended, he had five double-doubles which was equal to his output in his first three NBA seasons. Under first-year coach Scott Brooks, he had more freedom and opportunities to score.
The attention to Wall and Beal often left Porter as the forgotten man spotting up on the weakside, awaiting ball reversals or skip passes for wide-open looks. He can still have trouble with physical players at small forward but he flourishes when moved over to the stretch four spot in small lineups. What happens with restricted free agent Bojan Bogdanovic and rising third-year forward Kelly Oubre, who has a fourth-year option coming in October, will factor in as well.
While it may sound cliche when other players say things like this about their contract status, every bit of Porter's words are genuine.
"It is what it is," he said. "I'm going to continue what I've been doing. Continue to work. If everything works itself out, it will. ... A lot of people are surprised but with me, it's like, 'I saw this coming a long time ago.'"
Porter played a career-high 80 games, five more than he did in 2015-16, which is surprising when considering how his right hip flared up on him several times. He often rode an exercise bike to stay loose on game nights.
To get past the second round of the playoffs, where the Wizards' season has ended in three of the last four years, the roster will need a tune up. In a perfect world, Porter would remain one of their spark plugs.
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