Either the Cleveland Cavaliers baited a fragile and immature Kevin Porter Jr., and are now annoyed at the expected response. Or Porter Jr. has an anger management problem the size of Texas that he just cannot shake. Perhaps, Porter Jr. enjoys living on the edge, it adrenalizes him. Figuring him out is a therapist’s job, not an NBA executive and yet this is crystal clear 13 games in. The Cleveland Cavaliers don’t need Kevin Porter Jr. They are doing fine without him. The NBA doesn’t need Kevin Porter Jr. either. They are doing fine without him. On the precipice of being waived, what does Kevin Porter Jr. need?
Two months ago, he was driving in the dark and totaled his Mercedes. He had been drinking. Police found a loaded gun and marijuana in the car and Porter Jr. was arrested. A federal grand jury didn’t indict him on weapons charges because he convinced them he didn’t know the gun was in the car. He wasn’t drunk when he flipped his ride and the marijuana charge was dismissed.
Chalk it up to immaturity. Except, a few weeks earlier he posted on Instagram “Do you ever wish to see the end of your time?” Most reasonable people looked at it as a mental health crises, a threat of suicide. When his employers and teammates reached out to him, he deleted his Instagram account.
A lot of the public Kevin Porter Jr. handwringing has to do with Porter Jr. reacting to one event after another, not with calm but with fire. The latest? When he found out his locker had been given to Taurean Prince, the Cavs haul in the 4-team James Harden trade, Porter Jr. went ballistic and then got into a screaming fit with Cavs GM Koby Altman.
At that point, the Cavs were done. They had been as patient as expected but the NBA, as Charles Oakley once reminded us, means No Boys Allowed. Part of maturity is controlling emotions and the ability to see around the corner. Less than 1% of NBA players are given the benefit of the doubt. The rest will be waived, traded, or marginalized.
In August, two women filed a police report saying Porter Jr. attacked them. One of the women claimed she was punched in the face by Porter Jr. but no charges were filed in that case.
Although talented, Porter Jr. hasn’t been able to show off his talent in 2020-21. The USC product was the 30th pick in the 2019 draft. He’s played 50 games, averaged 10 points, and was a typical rookie. A bright spot at times and awful defense. Like most players his age who enter the NBA before they are emotionally prepared for NBA rigidity, ritual and, professionalism, Porter thinks a lot of himself. The Cavs had forced him to stay away and were working to ease him back into the team structure when the locker room brouhaha went down.
It was reported that in his meltdown he threw food. It’s the food throwing that sensationalized this story and caused non-sports outlets to pick it up because, you know who else throws food? Toddlers. Two-year-olds. The food angle created a narrative of a spoiled and bratty NBA player who hasn’t even suited up this season because his team told him to stay away and get his mental game together.
Porter may be talented but he isn’t unique. He’s a 6-4 shooting guard who can also play small forward. He’s not an exceptional shooter, rebounder, nor does he make plays for others. There are a lot of Kevin Porter Jr.’s in the NBA. By exhausting his welcome in Cleveland, he put his career in jeopardy. There are players his age who have done the right thing the right way, at home, on the road, in the bubble, they have worked on their careers and no one says about them isn’t that the kid who crashed his car and had a gun and threw food in a locker room snit?
It’s the NBA so Porter Jr. will get another chance. Gifted players always do but he is nearing his last chance because he has been careless with his reputation. He doesn’t have to play in the NBA. A lot of 20-year-olds don’t. And so that really is the question Kevin Porter Jr. has to answer. How much does he want this career? Does he want it even if his locker is changed? Does he want it even if he is told to stay home? Does he want it even if he is waived and has to prove to some mystery team he’s not the manchild his behavior says he is.
Only Kevin Porter knows what he wants. But this is fact. No one in the NBA is waiting for him to get it together. The NBA moves along. Karl-Anthony Towns has COVID, the horrible disease that took his mother and several family members. Within that context, Kevin Porter’s behavior just feels silly.
Things have changed. If Kevin Porter Jr. wants his career, now he’ll have to fight for it.