Michael Porter Jr. was red in the face wiping away tears as Mizzou went to the locker room. pic.twitter.com/5FWWLVWJGT— Aaron Reiss (@aaronjreiss) March 17, 2018
It’s only three seconds of video. I don’t want to inject hyperbole or fraught meaning into such a brief snippet, either.
Throughout the nearly four months he spent rehabilitating from microdiscectomy surgery, the phenom projected confidence, hinting at the kind of return you plot out in screenplays.
However, Michael Porter Jr.’s first and likely only two games in a Mizzou uniform smacked unceremoniously up against reality. Noble and pure as his intentions might have been, Porter still looked extremely rusty against Florida State in the NCAA Tournament, getting shots blocked from behind and airmailing mid-range jumpers in a game in which he missed eight of 12 shots from the floor.
He more than helped Missouri on the backboards, and he also swiped three steals. But as Florida State gained separation in the second half, Porter Jr. stood in the corner grasping the hem of his shorts and sucking in gulps of air.
There will be plenty of time to debate what these two games did to his draft stock and what his best course of action might be moving ahead. And it’s also fair to craft a critique of how Cuonzo Martin’s program went about reintegrating him into the mix.
But the kid didn’t have to play. He did anyway.
All along, some of us may have been too optimistic about the dividends Porter’s presence would yield. For all the speculation and hypotheticals and hopeful social media, his recovery time ended up being exactly what was projected. And when he finally did return, he looked like a player working his way back into shape. Reality usually wins out.