Cleveland Cavaliers: First-round pick arrested for assaulting girlfriend

Kevin Porter Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Kevin Porter Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images /

At some point, you stop getting chances in the NBA.

That goes for every player who fails to capitalize on the opportunity before them, whether due to skill, injuries or lifestyle. Some players get many chances, others few, but the bell tolls for all but the privileged and successful few.

Kevin Porter Jr. should be out of chances

The bell needs to toll now for Kevin Porter Jr., a former first-round pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers who was arrested Monday after allegedly attacking his girlfriend in a New York City hotel, leaving the woman, former WNBA player Kysre Gondrezick, with a fractured neck vertebra and a cut above her eye.

According to reports, Porter Jr. leveraged hotel security to get into the room he was sharing with Gondrezick, and then proceeded to attack her. Prosecutors said that he repeatedly punched her in the face, as well as forcefully squeezing her neck with his hands, causing bruising and difficulty breathing. Hospital testing showed that she had a fractured vertebra in her neck.

This is a horrifying development in a long line of troubled behavior from the former USC guard. The Assistant Manhattan District Attorney called this incident a “serious domestic violence case” and shared Porter’s history of abusing Gondrezik, including once ramming his car into hers.

Trouble has followed Porter Jr. for his entire career dating back to his time in college at the University of Southern California. That led to the talented guard falling in the 2019 NBA Draft; once assumed a Top-10 lock, the Cavaliers were able to draft him with the 30th pick.

It was a rocky start to his career with the Cavs as well, and after an up-and-down rookie season he started the 2020-21 season away from the team. In November of 2020 he was arrested after flipping his SUV, and a loaded handgun and marijuana were discovered in his car. The charges were eventually dismissed.

Two months later, when Porter attended his first game of the season, he discovered that his locker was moved and his old locker given to Taurean Prince, who arrived in Cleveland with Jarrett Allen as part of the four-team James Harden trade. Porter had a screaming match with team officials as a result, which proved to be the final straw in Cleveland.

In some sort of bizarre karmic disaster, the same Houston Rockets team that traded away James Harden traded for Kevin Porter Jr. The Cavs essentially dumped him on Houston, receiving back a Top-55 pick that was unlikely to ever convey. They moved on from the Kevin Porter Jr. experience none too soon.

Unfortunately for Porter Jr., the Rockets and especially Kysre Gondrezick, Porter wasn’t able to get his life on track after that wake-up call. He ran afoul of the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols by visiting a Miami strip club on a team trip, then in January of 2022 lost his temper with then-head coach Stephen Silas.

There was hope that the Rockets were the right place for Porter; he had a clear path to playing time to give him something to work toward, and the presence of John Lucas on the coaching staff was supposed to provide a veteran mentor. Instead, Lucas moved on to Los Angeles in 2021, and Porter’s behavior has spiraled into a dark place.

The Rockets seemed to know that this was a possibility; they created a contract that would only guarantee in stages, giving them the flexibility to get out of the remaining money were something like this to happen. That may have protected them, but it did nothing to protect Porter’s victim.

“Innocent until proven guilty” is a legal benchmark, not an NBA one, and there is enough evidence here that the league should take quick and decisive action. NBA players are role models, and Porter needs to have his pedestal removed immediately. The league also needs to take a closer look at its domestic violence policies and find a way to better support players struggling with mental health issues.

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The warning signs were there, and they have snowballed into a tragedy that will likely put Porter behind bars and already has put a woman in the hospital. One can only hope that, as his NBA career ends, a new chapter of his life can begin.