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 losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.



That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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