- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2014

Over and over Paul Pierce mentioned confidence at Washington Wizards media day.

His is unassailable, the result of scoring more than 25,000 points during his 16 seasons in the league.

Otto Porter’s is not. After being drafted third overall in 2013, Porter was hurt and ineffective during his rookie year. A hip injury caused him to miss training camp. He scored 78 points and played just 37 games. Only once in his career has Pierce scored less than 1,000 points in a season, and that was when he put up 791 in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 50-game season in 1999, his rookie year.

It’s a redux of the chicken-egg conundrum. Does confidence come from success or spur it?

“My rookie year, it’s a rookie year; you have ups and downs,” Porter said. “Your first year in the league, you don’t know what to expect. Of course, being hurt definitely was a setback for me.”

He’s been around Pierce for about two weeks. The former Boston Celtics captain is a notorious and relentless trash-talker. He also has a set of offensive skills that remain difficult to stop despite his 37th birthday being less than two weeks away. Combine those things, and players do not thrive around Pierce if they are mentally weak. The same goes for soft players in the NBA.

So, the question for Porter is if his confidence has risen to the point it can boost his game, then each feeds into the other.

Porter was playing in the Las Vegas Summer League when he heard the team signed Pierce. His reaction? “Oh, wow,” Porter said.

Since being back in Washington, he has impressed Pierce.

“I knew absolutely nothing about Otto Porter,” Pierce said. “I never seen him play in college. He was just a name to me. He didn’t really play much last year — from what I hear, he was hurt, I guess. From just being here the last couple weeks, this guy really intrigues me. His potential. His talent level. He has a high basketball IQ.

“He could be a star in this league. I’m not just blowing smoke … This guy, he’s really talented. I think he just needs to maintain his confidence, continue to work. Sky’s the limit for this guy.”

Porter says he benefited from last season’s rough go. He’s healthy now, played well in Summer League and has reduced pressure. The Wizards making the Eastern Conference semifinals last year, plus the arrival of Pierce, have helped back the spotlight off Porter to a degree. That leaves Porter expecting a change on the court this season.

“You’re probably going to see the Otto Porter that got drafted,” Porter said. “A guy that can affect the game in many ways, offense, defense and rebounding.

“For me, it’s being confident and doing my job.”

One begets the other.

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