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Mentors Matter: How The Truth Set Otto Porter Free

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Otto is another one who just doesn’t understand how good he is. He can shoot, he’s a slasher, he can defend, I’m just not sure how badly he wants it every day.

That kid just needs to get mad. If he came to practice ticked off and to the games ticked off, he’d be fine. But it’s hard to get Otto mad. I should punch him one day just to get him riled up.” – Paul Pierce

That’s the quote that made things public. That’s the quote that put the pressure on. That’s the quote that put the spotlight on Otto Porter. That’s the quote that set Otto Porter free.

Otto Porter was the 3rd pick in the NBA draft. Being the 3rd pick doesn’t guarantee success, and doesn’t guarantee stardom. The only thing the 3rd pick guarantees is talent. Otto Porter’s draft position is a reflection of what he could be, a reflection of the talent and athletic ability he possesses. Just like Greg Oden’s draft position, or Michael Olowokandi’s draft position.

From the moment Paul Pierce arrived, one thing has been clear. Otto Porter reveres Paul Pierce.

However, watching Porter all season, you didn’t see the results of his studying and shadowing Paul Pierce. Paul Pierce exudes confidence. Paul Pierce exudes leadership. Paul Pierce exudes passion and self-expression. Paul Pierce seizes the moment.

All season long, we saw none of this from Otto Porter. We saw Otto quietly go through ups and downs. He was given opportunities to run free, to be unleashed, but repeatedly ended up back in the Wittman dog house, at the end of the bench. Nothing that you can say about Paul Pierce could be said about Otto Porter.

But suddenly, at the end of the year, things changed. After a season of shadowing, Porter started to creep out from behind the shadows. Down the stretch of the regular season, he did just enough to earn the coaches trust to play more significant minutes. He wasn’t setting the world on fire, but he wasn’t crashing and burning either.

And then Paul Pierce spoke up.

Pierce’s public quotes did something special to Otto Porter, something private conversations, or media commentary simply can’t so. The media has repeatedly discussed Otto’s potential, his need to show that fire and desire, but the media is not coaches and teammates. And we can imagine coaches and teammates have had conversations with Otto expressing similar sentiments, but direct conversation doesn’t always inspire self-belief the same way. When your mom tells you you’re great and need to try harder, it only goes so far. But when Paul Pierce says it to the world, THAT’s different.

When Paul Pierce expresses his belief in you to the entire nation, that means he really means it. That’s not just a parent telling you you’re great, that’s you’re boys talking sh&! for you before you show up, because they believe you’re about to back it up. And Paul Pierce isn’t just a teammate to Otto Porter, he’s a hero.

Above all else, Paul Pierce loves pressure. He loves to perform under pressure. Paul Pierce’s comments put the pressure on Otto Porter. “I believe in you, now prove me right.” And Otto Porter has performed.

In game one, Porter played 33 solid, but non-statistically impressive minutes. But he was on the floor, while Paul Pierce gave him, and the entire squad, one more lesson. A perfectly orated lecture on playoff greatness. A power-20-point presentation on what playoff basketball is all about. Otto Porter took notes.

In game two, Otto Porter scored 15 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. He was a team high +17 while he was on the floor. And he flashed this little flex pose after an offensive rebound put back bucket.

Wait a minute! I’ve seen that flex pose before!

Porter doesn’t have to be great every night. He won’t be great every night. He’s not Wall and Beal, not yet. But all of a sudden, the confidence is on display. The talent is on display. The passion is on display. The self-expression is on display. Paul Pierce put the spotlight on Otto Porter. And now, Porter is responding, because he’s been studying in the shadow of greatness.

Of course, there could be an alternative explanation, courtesy of the playoff developments regarding his optometric issues, or lack thereof: Maybe he’s just DC’s new Carlos Rogers.

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