November 28, 2021

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The Sports Fanatics

Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. leaves game vs. Rockets with lower back soreness

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USATSI

Just three minutes into the Denver Nuggets’ win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday, Michael Porter Jr. found himself all alone on a fastbreak after a loose ball bounced his way. It should have been showtime, but instead the young forward never really left the ground as he missed the layup in embarrassing fashion and appeared to injure himself in the process. 

Although it’s not clear exactly what happened on that possession, Porter soon left the game for good because of lower back soreness. After the game, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he still has to talk with the team’s medical staff and did not have an update on Porter’s status. 

It’s too early to say how serious this injury is, but it’s certainly worrisome given Porter’s previous back problems. He missed most of his lone collegiate season at Missouri after undergoing back surgery, and concerns about his future health were why he fell all the way to 14th in the 2018 NBA Draft. During the pre-draft process, a doctor for the Los Angeles Clippers even said that Porter “probably wouldn’t play again.” 

That prediction ended up being incorrect, but Porter did eventually need another back surgery and missed the entirety of the 2018-19 NBA season. To his credit, he has largely been healthy since then. Last season he played in 71 of a possible 82 games between the regular season and playoffs, and had played in every game this season. The Nuggets will hope that this new issue is minor so that trend can continue.

The Nuggets will also hope that Porter can turn things around whenever he does get back on the floor. He’s off to a brutal start this season, averaging 9.9 points and 6.6 rebounds on 35.9 percent shooting from the field and 20.8 percent from 3-point range. That wouldn’t be good enough even if the Nuggets were fully healthy, but it’s especially problematic since they’re still without Jamal Murray. 

Coming off a breakout season, Porter is the hinge that will decide the Nuggets’ fate as a Western Conference contender. As good of a 1-2 punch as Nikola Jokic and Murray are when healthy, the Nuggets still desperately need a third player who can handle some of the offensive responsibility. With his high-level shooting and shot creation ability, Porter has the potential to fill that role, but so far this season he’s been well below the mark. As a result, the Nuggets are 26th in offense and are just barely above .500 at 5-4.