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TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — Denver Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. said he’s pain-free after a second surgery on his back, and the 14th overall pick in the 2018 draft is hoping to be on the court near the start of the 2018-19 season.

Porter told ESPN on Sunday at the NBA’s annual rookie photo shoot that, “I finally feel, like, good,” and he is hoping to be ready for game action around the time the season tips in mid-October.

“I don’t have a date but I’m hoping to be back for the beginning of the year. Gotta heal up, but I feel great,” Porter said. “I’m able to get on the court a little bit right now, do some different things. But my rehab has definitely been very conservative. They’re really taking it easy with me, being patient with me.”

Porter underwent a microdiscectomy in November 2017 that repaired one of two bulging disks in his back. He underwent a second spinal surgery in July, and the Nuggets did not announce a timetable for his return to basketball activities.

The 6-foot-10 Porter had been projected as a high lottery pick but slipped in the draft in part because of the injuries that limited him to just three appearances during his lone season at Missouri.

Porter elected to have the second surgery last month with hopes of alleviating all issues with his back before the start of his rookie season.

“[Doctors originally] only thought one of [the bulging disks] was symptomatic,” said Porter. “They went in and fixed that one. Turns out that both were symptomatic. So my first surgery helped a lot but didn’t fix the entire problem. Now that they did this one, I’ve got no pain or anything. I’m excited.”

Porter raised some eyebrows earlier this week when it was noted that he liked an Instagram comment that had called Dallas rookie Luka Doncic “overrated.”

Porter told ESPN he immediately reached out to Doncic to explain it was an accident and retold the story while standing next to Doncic at Sunday’s event.

“So what’s crazy is that blew up,” Porter said. “Believe it or not, I’m scrolling through [a post about] the Rookie of the Year odds and I accidentally like a comment. This is the EuroLeague MVP and I got nothing but respect for him. I was like, ‘Man, I didn’t want to come off like that.’

“I reached out to [Doncic], told him it was 100 percent accident and I told him, ‘I can’t wait to see what you do in the league.’ I wasn’t worried about what fans thought, but I wanted to let him know instantly. It was 100 percent accident.”


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