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Kevin Porter Jr. trades in painful failure in Cleveland Cavaliers recovery: Chris Fedor

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cavaliers had no choice.

Kevin Porter Jr. – a 6-foot winger who annoyed fans, teammates, coaches and managers with a promising rookie season dotted with mesmerizing flashes of stellar qualities on the pitch – would not reach its potential here in Cleveland.

Head coach JB Bickerstaff, who joined to watch Porter’s development at the start of the 201

9-20 season while Bickerstaff was still John Beilein’s head assistant, could not reach Porter all the time – although Bickerstaff is known as a great communicator. , leader and builder of culture.

General Manager Kobe Altman, who began liaising with Porter during his fickle freshman year at USC, often connected with troubled youths through text and spent a lot of time on campus to get to know him, he could no longer reach Porter. . At least not enough to pull it back after months of wrong steps.

“The organization has done everything and more for him,” a league source told cleveland.com. “They went above and beyond. They gave it more chances than most franchises would have. “

Now the Houston Rockets will try to save Porter from destroying his career – a hopeful start that quickly developed with too much free time during an extended off-season pandemic, a series of bad off-court decisions and immaturity that followed, first from Seattle to USC and then college to Cleveland. Always one step forward and a few steps back.

For the Rockets, it’s a low-risk, high-reward move – a worthy bet for an organization that recently handed out James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets and has assistant coach John Lucas, who has a history of supporting off-site reclamation projects. questions. If that doesn’t work, the missiles move forward without giving up, given that the highly defended second-round project the Cavs receive is unlikely to ever surrender.

For the Cavs, this was a significant failure in their recovery.

The teammates consider Porter to be the most talented of the young core, the player with the most probable path to the star. Front office members perceived him as untouchable when rival teams intervened in previous trade talks. Porter had to be the only one – the central element of this recovery with the possibility of changing the trajectory, the phenomenon they stole at the end of the first round.

Even after an off-season arrest, Porter was still in Cleveland’s long-term vision, choosing to take his version for a third year.

What could it be. Go ahead to Thursday. The Cavs agreed to a trade that was actually dumping wages. They had two options: deal with Porter for a very short time or give him up outright. They chose the least painful one, receiving a swing room under the luxury tax and an open space designated as a reserve guard to fill the short-term void with Matthew Delavevedova, removed indefinitely due to a concussion.

Make no mistake: No one looks good here.

Not Porter, who got many chances to show the organization that learned from his mistakes, to prove that he has the emotional maturity to handle everything that becomes an NBA player. The Cavs set goals for him, and Porter didn’t always work for them, feeling disrespected by the organization that held him for so long. They hoped he would respond or simply respond in a different, more mature way. They also hoped Porter would make a better choice when it came to the people around him.

Kavi empathized with him, recognizing his chaotic past and the enormous burden he carried at such a young age, moving his family to Cleveland so that they could be cared for and safe. Despite the time, effort, resources and extra care, it didn’t work out. How to help someone who is not ready to help? How many next times will you give before disappointments accumulate and exhaustion overcomes?

Altman doesn’t look well either. He bet nearly two years ago, paying $ 5 million and giving up four second-round choices for Porter’s rights. Cavs works tirelessly to accumulate these assets. They are not able to throw them away – even if they are only secondary. The Kavis knew all the reasons behind Porter’s nose tug. They did their homework, talked to countless people, and met Porter in person. Although some other teams took him off the board, the Cavs were in love with his side, seeing an insulting Harden-like package and annoying two-way traits.

Their thought process: What does this child look like when we provide him with a structure he never had, a constant routine he needs, proper eating habits, a better sleep schedule, training, a professional coach, a few veterans to give him show the way and Bickerstaff as a suitable mentor?

The first year was not perfect. There were some slips. But his rookie season made him look like a wise bet.

Porter averaged 10.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists. It was one of the highlights during an unfortunate 19-win season that ended abruptly in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He had a duel with Harden in a captivating showdown last December. Porter ignited his return in February against the Miami Heat, scoring 30 career points.

Bickerstaff often mentions Porter as one of the best passers-by on the list and is excited about the opportunity to use the 20-year-old swingman as a playmaker guard. Porter has a close relationship with assistant coach Lindsay Gottlieb, who talks about her love for the youngster.

Then everything changed during a long off-season. Porter walked away.

In August 2020, he was accused of hitting a woman in the face. In October, Porter posted a black square on his Instagram with the message, “Do you ever want to see the end of your time?” help. He was involved in a car accident in November – arrested and charged with improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, inability to control the vehicle and illegal possession of marijuana. All these accusations were rejected.

Porter’s days with the Cavs reached a breaking point last Friday when he was upset to learn that his place in the locker room had been given to newcomer striker Taurean Prince. Porter had returned to practice with the Cavs a day earlier, part of an undisclosed reintegration plan.

That evening Altman came in and tried to talk about it. But Porter didn’t want to calm down. The food was thrown away. The tension rose. The oral exchange between Porter and Altman was “uncomfortable for everyone inside,” said a source who witnessed it.

Friday was the culmination of too many mistakes, including disrespect for teammates and employees.

After this confrontation, Porter was told to clean his locker and taken out of the building, evicted by the team while the front office determined the next steps.

“We all want to see how successful Kevin is and I still feel that way,” Bickerstaff said Monday. “So whatever happens to him in the future, I hope nothing but the best for him. And it is part of our responsibility as coaches to do our best and try to make the most of every situation. I can say that we did it. “

Bickerstaff’s message focuses on unity, collective redemption, accountability, and discipline. Kavis are trying to build a culture that is not yet firmly established. A surprise start from 7-7 makes them move in the right direction, currently in the playoffs of the Eastern Conference a month after this strange season. They couldn’t risk all this for a single player, no matter how talented he was. They had bet enough on him.

The Cavs didn’t want that. They stood next to Porter after his arrest. They repeatedly called him a good child at heart. This was not an impulsive decision.

Maybe there were some things they could have done better. The same goes for Porter. Bickerstaff and Altman will certainly consider this. They will do a mirror test. But the sequel was the best – and only – option for everyone involved. Porter was the lonely man who could not meet organizational standards. What would he say about core values ​​if he continued to receive preferential treatment and endless chances? It was a message. Words in action.

With Porter’s absence, the focus shifts to the rest of Cleveland’s young core. Colin Sexton displaces Porter like a cornerstone. Sexton, with a low level of support, is one of the best players in the Eastern Conference during a breathtaking six-month period that lasted until last December. His recent game helped soften the stinging blow.

Jarrett Allen’s arrival is a nice boost, giving the Cavs a 22-year-old center of the future that becomes a defensive support. Dylan Windler is close to returning and poses a threat to Porter’s game. Taurean Prince, part of the deal with Alan, is still only 26 years old. Isaac Okoro has impressed the Cavs since being selected fifth in November. Darius Garland showed exciting growth before getting a sprained right shoulder. Don’t forget the unprepared Larry Nance Jr. At least all of them help.

The Kavs chose culture over talent. They deserve credit. But that doesn’t change the end result: Cleveland has lost one of its valuable – and most important – building blocks.

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