The Houston Rockets are suspending Kevin Porter Jr. and Christian Wood for Monday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, disciplining both for poor behavior surrounding Saturday’s loss to Denver, coach Stephen Silas confirmed before the game.
Porter and Wood traveled with the Rockets to Philadelphia on Sunday, but Silas made the decision to sit out both players after separate episodes involving the two players.
Neither Porter nor Wood played in the second half of the Rockets’ loss to the Nuggets, which included Porter leaving the arena after a halftime locker room confrontation with assistant coach John Lucas, sources said. Porter became angry after Lucas challenged him at the half, revisiting an issue that led to the guard losing his composure on the bench during the first half, sources said.
Silas said Monday that Porter had a “spirited debate” and “lost his temper” at halftime, “to the point where I thought what would be best for the team and best for our culture as a group, and just making sure that everybody is one the same page, I thought it would be best for him to be suspended for today’s game.”
Silas said that the suspensions are all about “accountability” and that both players accepted them without issue.
Porter has well-documented anger management issues — which the team believes he has made progress on — but those surfaced again Saturday and ultimately drove him to leave the arena instead of rejoining the team for the second half, sources said.
“He is emotional,” Silas said of Porter. “He’s a competitor. He’s a good kid. He owns up to his mistakes when he makes them and tries not to make mistakes again. That’s pretty much all you can ask from a guy. Yeah, we put a lot into him. We knew that he had a past before he came here. But, we hold everybody accountable to what they do. He crossed a line and he’ll be back. And we’ll still love him.”
As for Wood, he was benched to start Saturday’s game and appeared to pout over Silas’ punishment for him failing to show up for the team’s daily COVID-19 testing, which caused the team’s shootaround to be delayed, sources said.
Later, Wood showed little inclination to check into Saturday’s game when Silas called upon him, sources said, and Silas quickly moved on to other players. Lucas also confronted Wood at halftime during and at least one other of the team’s young players challenged Wood, telling him that, as a veteran, Wood should be setting a standard, sources said.
Wood, the Rockets’ leading scorer and rebounder, played eight scoreless minutes in the first half. Houston was outscored by 17 points when he was on the court.
“We had a disagreement as far as him going back into the game in the second half, and I decided it would be best for the team [to suspend him],” Silas said. “It’s very much attached to accountability for everybody on our team. My job is to hold people accountable to their actions and not overreact at all, but react appropriately.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Porter to the Rockets last January for a top-55-protected second-round pick after deciding to move on from their former first-round selection due to off-court issues, issues that led to Porter being inactive for the beginning of the 2020-21 season.
The Cavaliers decided to either trade or release Porter, the No. 30 pick in the 2019 draft, after he exploded on team officials over them moving his locker to an auxiliary area. The Cavaliers had given his locker to Taurean Prince, who had arrived with Jarrett Allen as part of the four-team James Harden trade. Porter showed up to the arena for the first game of the season and discovered his locker had been moved.
Houston sent Porter to its G League affiliate to ease his transition to the Rockets, who moved him from wing to point guard. Porter, 21, has had some success in Houston, averaging 15.0 points and 6.1 assists per game over the past two seasons. Despite the missteps Saturday, the franchise is still optimistic over Porter’s growth and development and believes he has been committed to making improvements asked of him.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.