The question stemming from the latest allegations against Kevin Porter Jr. isn’t whether or not the Houston Rockets guard should play again in the NBA. He shouldn’t.
Not after he was arrested this week in New York City amidst allegations he savagely assaulted his girlfriend. On Tuesday at his arraignment, prosecutors said the alleged attack left Kysre Gondrezick, a free agent WNBA player, with a fractured vertebrae and cut over her right eye.
Before that, a police spokesman had told CNN that Porter Jr. “assaulted her, struck her multiple times and choked her.”
Unless these grotesque allegations are suddenly and irrefutably proven to be untrue, there’s no way Porter Jr. ever takes the floor again in an NBA game.
The question before us is how, after so many red flags and warnings, the Houston Rockets allowed him into an NBA locker room again in the first place. And, why, after this latest alleged act of violence, there would be even a remote question of anyone actually thinking of taking a chance on him again.
Throughout his career, the only thing more constant than Porter Jr.’s promise on the court was the promise of trouble off of it.
Back in college, he was suspended at USC for two games for “conduct issues.” In 2020, Porter 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. Though all charges were eventually dismissed, the concerns surrounding him were not.
Porter was moved out of Cleveland a season after the Cavs drafted him in the first round. The reason? Not talent. He has ample talent. Perhaps you’ve guessed why: Character issues.
As USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt reported at the time, Porter Jr. apparently lost his cool during that 2020-21 season and began yelling and throwing things in the Cavs locker room after a trade brought in a new player and resulted in his own locker being moved.
That, in turn, led to a confrontation with Cavs GM Koby Altman. A short time later Porter Jr. was traded to the Rockets. And trouble, as it often does, followed.
He was briefly suspended during the 2021-22 season after a reported altercation with then-Rockets head coach Stephen Silas — another locker room outburst. The NBA fined him $50,000 in April 2021 for violating the league’s health and safety rules by visiting a Miami strip club.
And now the most serious of issues in a pattern that has defined his NBA career: This arrest for allegedly assaulting and severely injuring his girlfriend. Documents widely reported about the case allege Porter Jr. repeatedly punched her in the face and strangled her.
The awfulness of it should be enough to keep this person out of the league. But if that’s not enough — and sadly, in sports and other parts of life, it often isn’t — so should any notion of a team’s self interest.
Bill Parcells used to share this gem: “People tell you they are. Listen.”
Kevin Porter Jr. has told us who he is loudly and clearly for a very long time, and this latest turn screams it aloud: He is a troubled young man who is out of control, destructive to himself and those around him, unworthy of a spot in the NBA and not even worth — as if this should matter — whatever high level of talent he possesses that has bought him way too many extra chances in the league.
The Rockets should have known better when, last October, they offered him a four-year, $82.5 million extension with built-in safeguards against this very scenario. Only the first year of the contract was guaranteed — if they waive him before opening night, the Rockets will only owe him $3 million beyond this season. They structured it this way because they undoubtedly knew there was a chance the off-court issues wold become impossible to look past. And Porter proved them right.
Now, less than a year after signing that deal, he’s been charged with felony assault and strangulation. Their statement on the matter?
“We are in the process of gathering information surrounding the matter involving Kevin Porter Jr. We have no further comment at this time.”
No, that’s not good enough. There was already enough information about Kevin Porter Jr. before he allegedly attacked his girlfriend to know the risk of having him around. Forget whether or not he should play again in the NBA. He should not. That’s clear.
Hopefully decision-makers in the league will go a step further, and have the same smarts, decency and common sense to do what Altman did: Understand that some talent isn’t worth the trouble if that trouble keeps on coming.
Sometimes you have to simply cut ties.
People tell you who they are, even the talented ones. It’s time those in the NBA — should there be any with similar thinking to those in the Rockets’ front office — finally start listening. And then acting appropriately before the obvious and awful forces your hand.