The 2023-24 NBA season is still weeks away, but the Houston Rockets are already off to a dismal start after Kevin Porter Jr. was arrested.
On September 11, guard Kevin Porter Jr. was arrested in New York and charged with the assault and strangulation of his girlfriend at a hotel that morning, according to ESPN.
The 23-year-old Porter was taken into custody after police responded to a 911 call at 6:45 AM. The two charges, both felonies, were brought after an on-scene investigation. A spokesperson said it was determined there were lacerations on the woman's face and that she had been choked.
At Porter's arraignment the following day, prosecutors said the alleged attack on his girlfriend, 26-year-old Kysre Gondrezick, a WNBA free agent, resulted in a fractured vertebrae and a cut over her right eye. According to the spokesperson, Gondrezick had been struck multiple times in the face and choked.
While these charges are certainly shocking, they're hardly surprising. Porter has had a troubling history of character issues and brushes with the law since his college days. As a player at USC, he was suspended for two games for "conduct issues", according to the team. In 2020, he was involved in a one-car crash and charged with improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, failure to control a motor vehicle and possession of marijuana. (The charges were eventually dismissed).
It doesn't stop there. One season after the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Porter in the first round, he flew into a rage in the locker room, yelling and throwing things after his locker was moved following a trade that brought in a new player. The incident escalated in a shouting match with Cavs general manager Koby Altman. Shortly thereafter, he was traded to the Rockets.
The Rockets suspended Porter after reportedly getting into an altercation with then-head coach Stephen Silas. He was fined $50,000 by the NBA in April 2021 for violating the league's health and safety policy by visiting a Miami strip club.
Last season, Porter averaged 19.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game in 59 games. Over his career, he's averaging 15.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg and 5.0 apg.
The NBA's domestic violence policy doesn't allow the Rockets to punish Porter during a league investigation. Commissioner Adam Silver can place Porter on administrative leave with pay for "a reasonable period of time." Depending on the findings,Silver can fine, suspend, dismiss or disqualify from any further association with the league and any of its teams.
The Rockets were hoping they could count on Porter to play a major role in the team's rebuild process under new head coach Ime Udoka. Last October, the team offered him a four-year, $82.5 million extension with clauses built in for incidents like this one. The good news is if they waive him before the season opener, they only owe him $3 million beyond the upcoming season.
That's beside the point, however. The Rockets obviously knew better when they traded for Porter. Perhaps they believed a change of scenery would somehow turn Porter into a pillar of the community. He's obviously talented, but that talent means nothing if he is constantly disruptive and a cancer in the locker room.
Porter has likely played his last game in a Rockets uniform, or any NBA uniform for that matter, depending on the outcome of this latest incident. That's the least of his worries. His biggest and only priority is to banish the demons that cause harm to others.
One has to wonder when teams will stop looking at the stat sheet and pay more attention to the signs of a troubled character before taking a chance. Sadly, the lure of potential often wins out over personal character. It certainly did in this case.
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