The Houston Rockets’ difficult season turned problematic on Saturday.
Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. left the arena before the game ended following a verbal altercation with assistant coach John Lucas, according to three people with knowledge of the incident. The people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the situation. Porter played 16 minutes — all in the first half — and scored eight points.
Also, forward-center Christian Wood, who did not start because of a team violation, did not play in the second half of Houston’s seventh consecutive loss, 124-111 to the Denver Nuggets. The Athletic reported Wood did not start because he missed a mandatory COVID testing time, and he declined to play in the second half. He played eight minutes.
Houston coach Stephen Silas acknowledged “a spirited debate” during halftime, telling reporters, “I have certain demand of this team as far as playing hard.”
Porter threw an object and was separated from Lucas, according to The Athletic. The 21-year-old is apologetic, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Porter is a talented third-year guard (12.8 points, 5.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game) but is not helping himself with outbursts.
Though he had lottery talent coming out of Southern California in 2019, the Cavaliers drafted Porter No. 30. In college, he was suspended indefinitely for personal conduct issues and played in 21 games his freshman season.
The Cavaliers traded Porter last season after he had an outburst when he learned his locker had been moved. He threw food and had an altercation with Cavs GM Koby Altman. Just before the 2020-21 season began, Porter was arrested after a single-vehicle accident and charged with improperly handling a firearm in a vehicle, failure to control a vehicle, driving without a license and possession of marijuana. Porter was not indicted on the gun charge and the license and marijuana charges were dropped. He admitted fault for failure to control a vehicle.
While the Rockets are 10-27 and in last place in the Western Conference, at times, they have seen growth from Porter, Wood, rookie Jalen Green, Jae’Sean Tate and Alperen Sengun, the nucleus of Houston’s young rebuild.