Nuggets’ Porter needs back surgery, return timetable unclear

MIAMI (AP) — Michael Porter Jr. of the Denver Nuggets needs surgery to address his latest back injury, and there’s no known timetable yet for his return.

Porter’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said the surgery is scheduled for Wednesday. Porter — who dealt with a serious back problem in college, so severe that some wondered if he would ever be an effective NBA player — has been limited to nine games this season.

“Obviously, not the outcome or the news that we were all hoping for,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Surgery was a last resort, but it is what it is. He’s been down this road before. He has an incredible family behind him. He has this entire organization behind him.”

ESPN first reported that Porter will need the surgery, and The Denver Post had been first to report that a nerve issue may jeopardize Porter’s season and lead to the procedure. Doctors will then be able to determine a likely course of recovery and how much time Porter may need before he can return.

“He’ll join us, whenever that is,” Malone said.

The Nuggets start a seven-game road trip in Miami on Monday night. They enter that game on a six-game slide, with five of those losses by double digits.

Denver has had seven players miss time with injuries already this season, including reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and All-Star guard Jamal Murray. Jokic has been dealing with a wrist issue, and Murray hasn’t played since tearing the ACL in his left knee last season.

“This is not the way we planned this season to go, but you can’t control these things,” Malone said.

Porter was limited to three games in his lone college season at Missouri because of back issues, then fell to 14th in the 2018 NBA draft after once being considered a serious candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick.

He missed his entire rookie season with the Nuggets after back surgery, but has blossomed in a big way since.

Porter has averaged 14 points in 125 NBA regular-season games, averaged 17.4 points in last season’s playoffs and was rewarded back in September with a five-year extension that will be worth at least $173 million. The extension that begins next season.

“We’re not going to allow injuries to get us sidetracked,” Malone said. “Is that a much harder path? Of course it is.”

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