Newcomer Otto Porter Jr. happy to be another veteran voice for talented young Raptors

Newcomer Otto Porter Jr. happy to be another veteran voice for talented young Raptors
Toronto Raptors' recently-signed free agent Otto Porter Jr. speaks to media during a press conference at the Raptors practice facility in Toronto, Wed. July 6, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

When Otto Porter Jr. was considering an offer from the Toronto Raptors, he didn’t have to look far for a scouting report.

“First thing he did (was call me),” Thaddeus Young said. “He said ‘Yo, Toronto’s calling me, what’s up?'”

Porter and Young were teammates for parts of two seasons from 2019 to ’21 with the Chicago Bulls, and remained friends.

“I said ‘Come on through, come on through, we’re family over here,'” Young told Porter. “‘Just come on through, sign the deal and let’s go, we’ll be ready to rock and roll.'”

The two were reunited with the Raptors when Young signed a contract extension in Toronto this past summer, and Porter agreed to a two-year deal with the Raptors on the heels of helping the Golden State Warriors to an NBA championship.

Just a day into training camp at the University of Victoria, coach Nick Nurse is thrilled to have another veteran to guide his young roster.

“It’s always super helpful,” Nurse said. “Their experience, their wisdom, their composure, advice, all of the things that they can do because of their experience … think it was needed for our roster.”

The 34-year-old Young was the voice of wisdom last season after he was acquired from San Antonio for Goran Dragic. When he threw down a dunk in a game in March, his new young teammates good-naturedly called him “Thad Young Legs.”

Young played 26 games with the Raptors, and the team felt the loss when he suffered a thumb sprain six minutes into Game 1 of the playoffs against Philadelphia.

But he soaked up the Toronto experience in his short time last season. His wife Shekinah and sons Thad Jr. and Taylor joined him in the media room at Scotiabank Arena whenever he was summoned to speak with reporters.

Re-signing in Toronto was a no-brainer.

“In my mind, it was always to try to get back here,” Young said. “Even when I spoke to Bobby (Webster, Toronto’s general manager) and Masai (Ujiri, Raptors president) on the phone when the trade was actually going down, the first thing they said was, ‘Look, we don’t want this to just be a one year thing, we want this to be something that lasts beyond this year,’ and I was completely fine with that.”

Nurse said Young’s presence at camp is almost like “a new addition,” since he’s starting the season with the Raptors, and has the benefit of training camp.

“It (feels) 10 times different,” Young said. “I’m coming into training camp and coming into the season with a fresh mind, mentally prepared and focused. Last year when I got here, I was fine but that’s because I’m a tough individual. But I was mentally burned out, just for the simple fact that I didn’t play the first half of the season and I spent a lot of time conditioning myself and burning myself out trying to be ready for the second half of the season. And then I think when I got here I wasn’t able to really play to my full potential and my full reach.”

The 29-year-old Porter, an 11-year NBA veteran and former third overall pick, averaged 8.2 points in 63 games last season. He said much of what drew him to Toronto was the team’s talented young roster that he believes can get back to the NBA Finals, and is more than happy to be another veteran voice to help them get there.

“We have a bunch of young guys that are hungry, they’re ready to do whatever it takes and by having the extra vet to help Thad out with the guys, they’re already picking our brains, first day,” he said. “They want to get to that elite level and it’s our job to pass on information that I got from Golden State or from my previous years playing, definitely want to share that with the younger generation.”

Porter also adds much-needed depth. The Raptors boasted the best second unit in the league in 2017-18 — the lovable “Bench Mob” led by Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam — but plummeted to last in scoring last season. That saw the overworked starters logging major minutes. VanVleet limped into the off-season with a couple of nagging injuries.

“We’re super deep,” Young said. “We have a lot of young guys that can play basketball, some guys on training camp deals and those guys can play as well. So, it’s just about finding the right combination, the right guys who can play in the right roles and fill the right spots.”

The Raptors wrap up camp in Victoria with a sold-out scrimmage on Friday at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. They open the pre-season in Edmonton on Sunday against the Utah Jazz.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2022.

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