Central Notes: C. Porter, Giannis, Dame, Pacers, Pistons

Of the three players on two-way contracts with the Cavaliers, Evan Mobley‘s brother Isaiah Mobley and former five-star recruit Emoni Bates are the bigger names. However, it has been Cleveland’s third two-way player – point guard Craig Porter Jr. – who has been emerging as the one with the most important role in the short term.

As Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes, Porter earned the game ball from Sunday’s upset win over the Nuggets by scoring 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting in 25 minutes of action. It was an impressive showing for an undrafted rookie who was expected to spend most of his first season in the G League getting acclimated to the pro game. Porter has received an opportunity to play because Ricky Rubio is absent for personal reasons and Ty Jerome is out with an ankle injury.

That’s just one of the things they told me early in the year after training camp and stuff like that. ‘Just be ready, you never know when your number’s gonna be called,'” Porter said. “I took that to heart and it’s been working for me. … As the games go on and as some guys fall down with injuries and stuff, I’m going to keep getting my opportunity. Each game, the confidence just builds and builds. The coaches believe in me, and the guys are just pushing me to be better. I’m ready for it.”

According to Fedor, the Cavaliers had a verbal two-way offer on the table for Porter in the event he went undrafted, but the team wanted him badly enough to try to acquire an additional second-round pick after drafting Bates at No. 49. Cleveland ultimately didn’t find a trade partner, so the front office was relieved when Porter went undrafted. He reached an agreement with the Cavs on a two-year, two-way deal shortly after the draft ended.

“He’s mature,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of the 23-year-old. “He’s an older rookie, so to speak. You just feel like you can trust him and you don’t feel like he gets rattled in the moment. It makes it easy to put him on the floor. You know what he’s going to do. … A lot of guys come into the league as young rookies and they’re still searching for their game. Craig knows what his game is. Never over his skis. That’s how Craig has been for us since he’s gotten here.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The chemistry between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard in Saturday’s win over Dallas looked like what the Bucks envisioned when they traded for Lillard, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. The star duo combined for 67 points, 19 assists, and 18 rebounds in the victory, with Antetokounmpo racking up 40 of those points. Lillard said after the game that he’s happy to cede center stage to his two-time MVP teammate. “I think tonight, he’s the horse,” Lillard said. “I wanna see him be four-time MVP or five-time MVP and have those type of games.”
  • Sunday’s blowout home loss to Orlando was Tyrese Haliburton‘s worst game of the season and a reminder of how dependent the Pacers‘ success is on their star point guard, according to Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star, who suggests that the club will probably need a second star on its roster to establish itself as a consistent winner.
  • Due to a sprained left shoulder, Killian Hayes missed Sunday’s game for the Pistons, who started second-year guard Jaden Ivey for the first time this season. As Mike Curtis of The Detroit News (subscription required) writes, head coach Monty Williams said before the game that he has been considered bringing Hayes off the bench to add his play-making to the second unit, so Ivey may see more starts going forward. However, Detroit’s lineup remains in flux with so many players affected by injuries — it could continue to change in the coming days and weeks, Curtis notes.
View Comments (17)