SAN DIEGO – Michael Porter Jr. knew the news was coming but was the last person to see it.
As Porter pulled into the airport on Monday afternoon, just hours after the Nuggets had ended their unofficial media day and were about to leave for training camp, he received a call from his agent, Mark Bartelstein.
The news — Porter’s five-year, maximum contract extension up to $207 million — was about to leak.
“I’m the last person on the airplane,” Porter said from the University of California San Diego gym after the first day of training camp.
“I walk in there and everyone, man, it just shows a lot about this team and this culture because I went there, and everyone was just hypnotized. … They saw it in front of me. They did it. Saw it on Instagram and Twitter on my phone. Will (Barton) was like, ‘Mike!'”
The deal, which had been in the works for months, gave Porter and his teammates something to celebrate for the two-hour flight.
“It’s funny how quickly news breaks in the NBA,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone. “Even before he took off from Denver to get out of here, there was talk all over the plane and people were giving him business.”
A day after Porter became the Nuggets’ third maximum contract player on the roster, locking in a potential championship trio for the foreseeable future, the 23-year-old appeared unimpressed with his achievement. Humble and gullible, Porter said he was at a loss for words.
“In my opinion, it’s like, I don’t deserve it,” he said. “There are people who are just as talented as me in other areas of life. Let’s say you’re a professional ping-pong player. You’re not making that many millions of dollars…”
Porter hasn’t set his mileage down to anything in particular, he said, but he plans to look after some of the people who helped him reach Monday’s historic deal.
It was three years ago when there was a question whether Porter would ever play basketball again after his second back surgery. Porter recalled training camp 2018 in San Diego, when he, Jared Vanderbilt and Isaiah Thomas walked around the court, unable to contribute to the title hunt.
Back in San Diego on Tuesday turned out to be a somewhat pinching moment for Porter, after securing his future in Denver for the next six years.
“I think it’s a lot more gratifying,” Porter said. “I’m one of those dudes who, even growing up, I didn’t think like, ‘Dang, I’ll make a million dollars when I go to the NBA.’ I thought about it, ‘Dang, I’m going to play LeBron, KD.’ It was never about the money for me.
“…the road I took made it all the more gratifying,” he said.
Porter said he hoped his story, full of setbacks and adversity, would serve as an example for players whose path was not as traditional.
As the team made its way to San Diego on Monday afternoon, Porter spoke with Jamal Murray, another max-contract player, who experienced his own set of obstacles as he went through his ACL rehab. On Tuesday, he texted with Nikola Jokic, who was not at training camp while he awaits the birth of his first child.
Together, those three comprise the core of the Nuggets’ future and represent the optimism that Porter could not contain.
“We are good to go,” he said. “We three right there, when you’ve got (Aaron Gordon), you’ve got Will (Barton), Monte (Morris), we’re locked in. We know we’re going to be good. We know we Good luck for years to come. … They didn’t give us all this money for not winning the championship.