Newcomer Otto Porter Jr. keen to lend veteran voice to booming Raptors

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

« The first thing he did [was call me] », Thaddeus Young said. « He said ‘Yo, Toronto calling me, what’s up?’

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

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

The two reunited with the Raptors when Young signed a contract extension in Toronto last summer, and Porter agreed to a two-year deal with the Raptors after helping the Golden State Warriors win 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 still super helpful, » Nurse said. « Their experience, their wisdom, their composure, their advice, all the things they can do with their experience – I think it was necessary for our roster. »

Young as ‘new addition’

Young, 34, was the voice of wisdom last season after being acquired from San Antonio for Goran Dragic. When he threw a dunk in a game in March, his new young teammates dubbed him « Thad Young Legs. »

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

But he soaked up the Toronto experience during his short time last season. His wife Shekinah and sons Thad Jr. and Taylor joined him in the Scotiabank Arena media room whenever he was called in to speak to 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 Maasai [Ujiri, Raptors president] on the phone when the trade was going down, the first thing they said was, « Listen, we don’t want this just to last a year, we want this to be something that lasts beyond of this year, » and I was totally okay 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 benefiting from training camp.

« This [feels] 10 times different,” Young said. “I come into training camp and enter the season fresh, mentally prepared and focused. Last year when I came here I was fine, but that’s because I’m a badass. But I was mentally exhausted, just for the simple fact that I didn’t play the first half of the season and spent a lot of time conditioning and wearing myself out trying to be ready for the second. half of the season. And then I think when I got here I wasn’t really able to play to my full potential and my full range. »

Budding talents a draw for Porter

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

« We have a bunch of young guys who are hungry, they’re ready to do whatever it takes and having the extra vet to help Thad with the guys, they’re already selecting our brains, day one, » he said. -he declares. « They want to get to that elite level and it’s our job to pass on the information that I got from Golden State or my previous years, I really want to share that with the younger generation. »

Porter also adds much-needed depth. The Raptors had the league’s best second unit in 2017-18 – the lovable « Bench Mob » led by Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam – but fell to last last season. This saw the overworked starters register important minutes. VanVleet limped into the offseason with a few nagging injuries.

« We’re super deep, » Young said. « We have a lot of young guys who can play basketball, some guys on training camp deals and those guys can play too. So it’s just about finding the right mix, the right guys who can play in the right roles and fill the right places. »

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

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