ROCKET RELAUNCH

Here are the critical factors that gave Kevin Porter Jr. new life with Rockets

Kevin Porter Jr. is making the most of his opportunity with Houston. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Bryan Kevin Porter Jr.'s journey to the NBA was remarkable, emotional, and entertaining. He has battled through so much in his life. Porter Jr. continues to make strides throughout life and on the basketball court. Although, Porter Jr. had some rough spots, the supporters in his life have kept him steady. They have been able to guide his journey toward the NBA.

Porter Jr. grew up in Seattle, Washington as a toddler to a teenager. The city of Seattle is known for basketball. Players like Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, Gary Payton, Doug Christie, Brandon Roy, Zach Lavine, John Stockton, Isaiah Thomas, and more. John Wall paid homage to Porter and those other pro-ball players.

"I know how talented [Porter Jr.] was in high school," Wall said. "I'm real cool with a lot of guys from Seattle, and I [watched their] basketball growing up. Jamal, IT, Brandon Roy, Will Conroy, all those guys, Terrence Williams, and Zach LaVine. [I've] been watching all of those guys grow up and play. I [have] been a big fan of Kevin Porter."

Porter Jr.'s mom, Ayanna Porter, became a huge role model while he grew up in Seattle. Sadly, he lost dad, Bryan Kevin Porter, at age four to a gun incident. His dad was defending somebody else from being attacked. Kevin's main goal was to live up to his father's sports career. He wanted to pay homage to his father while playing basketball in high school. His father's best sports in high school were baseball and football.

Mike Bethea, Porter Jr.'s former high school coach at Rainier High, had the opportunity to coach both father and son.

"His dad's main sport wasn't basketball, but his dad was a freak athlete," said Bethea. "His dad could've been an NFL linebacker, but his main sport was baseball. When Big Kev was in little league, he was throwing 80 miles per hour. To me he was relentless, like a Ben Wallace out there."

"Big Kevin had brought [Porter Jr.] to the school a couple of times actually when he was younger and I had met him," said Bethea.

Porter was a huge athlete at Rainier Beach High, so that inspired his son to attend that school as well. Porter Jr. became a five-star athlete in basketball while attending Rainier High. He even looked up to NBA 20-year player Jamal Crawford while he attended Rainier high for basketball. Porter Jr. adored Crawford's game when he was younger.

Porter Jr. was able to take the Rainier Vikings to the state playoffs four times in his high school tenure. He won state his senior year and became Mr. Basketball in the state of Washington. Mr. Basketball is a huge bragging right in high school basketball. In Porter Jr.'s senior season, he averaged 27 points, 14 rebounds, and five assist per game. He managed to have great grades as he continued to marvel spectators on the basketball court. "School work came natural to Kevin," said Bethea.

After his tenure ended at Rainier High, Porter Jr. decided to attend USC to compete in the PAC-12. His college career was short because of injuries and a slight troubling situation. He had a quad contusion and was suspended for "personal conduct" issues. Although, he was suspended and missed nine games because of injuries, Porter still played 21 games.

"Toughest two months of my life. Everything was crashing to me," Porter Jr. said on ESPN. "I was at [a depressing] stage and I didn't know what to do. Basketball was [an] exit for me."

Rockets Cavaliers Kevin Porter Jr. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Porter Jr. finished his collegiate career averaging 9.8 points, four rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. Because of the incidents he had in college with USC, his draft stock dropped to the 30th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks but traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

NBA scouts and executives knew Porter Jr. could play in college. He shot the ball over 50%, shifty from the outside and inside of the perimeter, and had a great mid-range game. He was exciting around the basket because of his athleticism. His ball handling was a marvel to NBA scouts because they were precise and quick.

Porter Jr.'s biggest aspiration was making it to the NBA by working hard and providing for his mother. It's amazing to see how Porter Jr. battles through his situations in life and on the court. Even though his time in Cleveland was short because of an incident with GM Kolby Altman, the Houston Rockets felt optimistic about the opportunity.

"As soon as I became aware, I called," Rockets GM Rafael Stone told The Athletic. "But I didn't call to make an offer. I called to find out what was going on. Cleveland gave us permission, and Stephen, myself and John all separately talked to him before we did the deal — and those conversations were very important. I got the sense that he was the type of guy that I wanted to work with and thought giving him an opportunity made sense. The other guys thought the same."

After Kevin left the Cavaliers, JB Bickerstaff still believed in his ability as a player and person. He loved Porter Jr.'s game in Cleveland and wanted to see him build a career with the Cavaliers.

"We all want to see Kevin be successful. I still feel that way," Bickerstaff said. "So whatever it is that happens in the future for him, I hope nothing but the best for him. And it's part of our responsibility as coaches to give everyone our all and try to make the best of every situation. I can say that we did that."

Rockets Kevin Porter Jr. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Rockets knew they had the right components in place because of John Lucas and Stephan Silas. Those two were known for molding and comforting players. They are great examples of players' coaches. Silas and Lucas are great at understanding players and their situations. This organization believes they can keep Porter on a steady path to success.

"I think it's been good," Silas said of Porter Jr.'s early days in Houston. "We've been in constant communication. We care about him as a basketball player, but a person as well. It's a daily process — trust isn't built in just a day or week. It's built day after day, week after week, month after month. It seems like it's going in a pretty good direction. We have a lot of trust in him. There's going to be ups and downs and conversations to be had just like every other player, but my door is always open and there's a support system that can help him be successful on and off the floor."

"I told his mother if you need [me], I'm there but he [Porter Jr.] is in good hands with Luc, and I feel real good about that," said Bethea. "Luc and I go way back from seven-eight years ago. We tried to start our own high school basketball All-Star game."

Porter Jr. feels the support from the Rockets as this season continues. His play continues to grow by averaging 15.5 points, six assists, and three rebounds per game. He continues to impress the coaches and players on the Rockets. Kevin has been playing good basketball since the Rockets sent him to the G-League to get in shape. He has now become the "cornerstone" for the Rockets. He still continues to work through the growing pains as an NBA player and young man.

"Training staff, coaching staff, and front office support me," Porter Jr. said. "Making sure I'm comfortable and just keep getting adjusted. I have a whole support cast in the whole organization."

Porter Jr.'s journey in the NBA has shown his toughness and determination. He is bound to be great in the NBA because of his focus. Coach Bethea believes he will take advantage of the second chance with the Rockets.

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The Rockets selected Jalen Green with the No. 2 pick. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images.

The city of Houston can finally rejoice as Jalen Green was selected as the number two pick by the Rockets at the 2021 NBA Draft. It was already suspected that the Rockets would draft Green from past reports. Shams Charania of The Athletic already reported that the Rockets narrowed their decision down to Green.

Green is an explosive shooting guard that can get in-and-out amongst the perimeter and paint. With the G-League Ignite, he averaged 17.9 points, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He is an excellent free throw shooter at 82.9 percent. Like James Harden, he is incredibly good at getting to the free throw line. Green has a good trigger from three by shooting 36.5 percent on 5.7 attempts a game. His mature status since high school has prepared him for the NBA.

"His down-hill playmaking is really hard to guard", as Joey Fucca, his ex-coach told TDS. "If he says he's going to get to the rim, good luck. He is very good at getting to the free throw line, he is also very explosive to finish above the rim. When his three ball is on, you're just going to have a long night. I wouldn't be excited to guard him."

Green has blistering speed with outstanding handles to blow by his defenders and score. Spectators have compared Green to a younger Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Bradley Beal, and Zach Lavine, which are superstar players. He is a particularly good midrange shooter underneath the perimeter, as he shot 35 percent on a small quantity of attempts in a shorter season.

"Jalen is a uniquely blessed guy. He's a transcendent athlete," as Rockets GM Rafael Stone said. "He can handle the ball, and he can shoot. Normally, people that athletic aren't as skilled. We think that combination of tools makes him an extraordinarily exciting prospect."

During his press conference on Thursday night, Green emphasized the achievements he wants to accomplish with the Rockets. Green even discussed his desire of being a better defender, as he wants to continue to get better. He has a great wingspan and lateral movement to stay with opposing players on defense and be disruptive in the passing lanes.

"They're going to say it's a great choice," Green said. "Rookie of the Year, All-Star, All-Defense, max contract. We're doing it big."

"Yeah, I think I can be that piece. I think I'm going to bring that dominant mentality, that defensive mindset…They already got a lot of star players"

As the draft continued, the Rockets sent future draft picks from the Wizards to land the 16th pick in the draft, which was 6'10 Alperen Sengun from Turkey. The 16th pick did belong to the Oklahoma City Thunder until Rafael Stone executed an interesting deal with Sam Presti.

"We did not think he would fall to us at 23, so we were really aggressive to try and move up all throughout the first round to acquire him," as Stone said.

Sengun's abilities on the court revolve around his post ups and skillful passing. He even maintains good feet along the baseline. In his press conference, he mentioned his passing skills can become better. There are clips of him looking impressive on shovel passes, passing the ball behind his back, and finding the cutting man towards the basket. Sengun looked good in double teams by showing he can still find the open man with his back turned.

While playing in the Turkish Super League, Sengun was an MVP at 18-years-old, averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assist, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. He could be another huge figure next to Christian Wood on the court, and a safety blanket for the Rockets if they cannot bring back Kelly Olynyk.

Usman Garbua is similar to former Rocket Luc Mbah a Moute. He is 6'8 with a tremendous wingspan at 7'3 and can guard anyone on the court, which is 1-5. Garbua was seen guarding Kevin Durant in the Team USA vs. Spain matchup and had interesting battles. The Rockets will get a ton of energy out of the 19-year-old player. He knows how to run the floor in transition, so he can finish around the rim. As I see it, he could be on a defensive first team in the future as he matures more. Garbua will become a defensive nightmare against opposing players.

"I think he's the best defender in the world outside of the NBA, and he's just 19 years old," Stone said. "I think he potentially could be really, really impactful on that side of the ball."

As the Rockets made their last selection, they selected Green's AAU buddy, Josh Christopher from Arizona State. He impressed a ton of scouts during his draft workouts and scrimmage against other prospects. Christopher had a double-double during his third scrimmage, which was 16 points and 10 rebounds. He is a very shifty guard with a ferocious step back.

While playing with the Sun Devils, he averaged 14.3 points per game and shot 49 percent from the field. Just like Green, he loved the midrange opportunities, as he shot 49.6 percent underneath the perimeter. He is another shifty big body the Rockets will have in their back court at 6'5. Christopher is very good at rebounding and playing defense. Stone loves watching him in defensive one-on-one situations. Christopher has Sixth Man of the Year written all over him because of his stocky body type and upside.

Hopefully, the Rockets have an exciting summer league and training camp along with their season.

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