WASHINGTON -- Paul Pierce was characteristically blunt when assuring reporters at Media Day of the sincerity of his praise for his probable backup:
"I'm not just blowing smoke up [Otto Porter's] ass."
Though Pierce did not see the former No. 3 pick play much last year or in college, he had seen enough in the past few weeks to form an opinion:
"Just seeing him the last couple of weeks, I've seen his potential, his talent. He has a high basketball IQ and he can be a star in this league," Pierce said. "He's shown me what he can do. He just needs time."
Fellow vet Drew Gooden waxed philosophical when asked about his Porter's season:
"What defines a successful rookie year? He learned," Gooden said. "Michael Carter Williams, I know he won rookie of the year, but I bet he would have rather made the second round of the playoffs. This guy is 6'8" and can play multiple positions. He's active. He can shoot better than I thought he could shoot, as a rookie, he can shoot the basketball. Otto's got a lot of potential."
This is high praise for a player who averaged two points a game on 36 percent shooting. Pierce and Gooden were not around to witness most of Otto's struggles, specifically the injury followed by the tentative on court play through much of the season. The comments from these veterans, if taken at face value, suggest that they're sure the growth in confidence we saw in summer league will translate to improved play this season.
Someone who did see Otto both through his struggles and his resurgence in summer league is Bradley Beal. But he, too, noticed the contrast between rookie year and second-year Porter:
"I think he's a lot more confident than he was last year. It's just a matter of him getting out there and playing his game," Beal said. "Once he gets the opportunity to, he's definitely going to showcase what he is capable of."
With Trevor Ariza gone, Martell Webster out indefinitely and a 37 year old starter ahead of him, Porter should get that opportunity this year. If these quotes are any indication, Porter has gained the respect of his teammates.
Now, can he earn it from the rest of the NBA?