VICTORIA—It’s not like they’re Statler and Waldorf of Muppets fame, grumpy old men sitting on the sidelines mocking what goes on around them.
But there is something about their experience, in life and in basketball, that will give Thad Young and Otto Porter Jr. a significant say in most things Raptors this coming NBA season.
They will dispense knowledge gained from years in the game, they should be able to help young players through predictable difficult times, and their wisdom will be appreciated. And needed.
“We were teammates once before (in Chicago in 2019-20), so he’s a great person, extremely professional and he knows how to play basketball,” Young said of his new Raptors teammate after the season’s first official workout at the University of Victoria. “He knows how to be in the right spot. He knows how to teach guys and guys respect his voice. That’s the one of the biggest things, you bring in a guy that guys are going respect, and it just makes the team so much better.”
It remains to be seen just how much either the 34-year-old Young or the 29-year-old Porter plays for Toronto but that’s almost beside the point.
Each can still play — Porter started in last season’s NBA Finals, Young seemed rejuvenated after joining the Raptors in a February trade — but their voices are almost as important as their shots.
“Like Thad said, we have a bunch of young guys that are hungry, they’re ready to do whatever it takes, and by having the extra vet to help Thad out with the guys, they’re already picking our brains the first day,” Porter said Tuesday. “They want to get to that elite level and it’s our job to pass on information that I got from Golden State or from my previous years playing, definitely want to share that with the younger generation.”
Porter said he sought Young’s counsel when he was weighing free-agent offers in the summer and considering the role he’d be playing and the kind of roster he’d be joining. The presence of another veteran swayed him to sign a two-year, $12.3-million (U.S.) deal.
The two give Raptors coach Nick Nurse more options.
“To me, (Young is) almost a new addition this year as well,” Nurse said. “We know who he is, what he can be and we like him a lot and he likes us. All that stuff is important. (But) it’s almost like having another new guy because he’s totally in a new position than he was a year ago … Obviously, Otto just came off an unbelievable year. I think (his signing) was needed for our roster, and it should be helpful.”
And if there aren’t a ton of minutes or shots every night? The two vets should be able to handle it.
“Some veterans don’t,” Young said. “They don’t know how to accept it but I’m one of those guys that’s always been team first. Otto’s the same way, a team-first guy. It’s one of those things where, when you accept it and you understand what your role is, it helps the team and helps you. When everybody’s eating together and everybody’s winning together, it’s all fun.”
On slow nights, they can sit around and talk about the kids they’re trying to lead.
“At first, Otto was super quiet, and then he kind of just started to be a little more outspoken,” Young said. “But I think I started off like that in my younger years as well, just being quiet, (letting) other guys kind of take the lead and then I started to kind of grow into that role.
“And I think he’s a tremendous leader, I think he’s a great player, obviously, and a guy who’s gonna definitely help us down the stretch.”
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