The Denver Nuggets will be without up and coming forward Michael Porter Jr. for the “foreseeable future” according to head coach Michael Malone. Speaking to reporters on Monday ahead of the team’s game versus the Miami Heat, Malone said it’s not clear when Porter, who is dealing with lower back soreness, will return to action.
“There’s no doubt, regardless of his mood, we all have to support Michael, just like we support Jamal [Murray],” Malone said. “And again, Michael could be back in a week, it could be more than that. So when I say, ‘foreseeable future,’ I’m not really sure what that means, I just know that he’s not playing tonight.”
“This is a process where we’re being very cautious, talking to doctors, getting imaging all that kind of stuff,” Malone continued.
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This is obviously worrisome news considering Porter’s history of back issues. He missed most of his lone collegiate season at Missouri after undergoing back surgery, and during the pre-draft process, a doctor for the Los Angeles Clippers said that Porter “probably wouldn’t play again.”
While Porter proved that prediction wrong, those sorts of concerns were widely shared at the time, which is why he fell all the way to the Nuggets at No. 14 in the 2018 draft despite being one of the class’s most talented prospects. He also needed another back surgery which kept him out for his entire rookie season in the NBA.
He has largely been healthy since then, but during the team’s win over the Houston Rockets last weekend, he came up limping after missing a breakaway layup. It’s not clear exactly what happened, but he didn’t get any lift as he tried to go to the rim, and left the game a short time later with what the team called lower back soreness.
Porter is off to a rough 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 through nine games. Despite that, the Nuggets will hope this is a weeks-long problem rather than a month-long or season-ending one.
They’re already without Jamal Murray due to a torn ACL, and it’s unclear when he’ll be back. Even with Nikola Jokic leading the way, the Nuggets could be in real trouble in the loaded Western Conference if they’re without Porter and Murray for a significant portion of the season.