After eventful offseason, Rockets, Rafael Stone tasked with rebuilding image

HOUSTON — On Monday morning at Toyota Center, Rockets general manager Rafael Stone stood in front of media members to talk about the sad tragedy that sent the world into a frenzy on Sept. 11, 2001. It was part of the franchise’s annual Patriot Day tribute (this year, a Heroes Luncheon) to military members and first responders.

Unfortunately, Stone — who did take questions on a few basketball topics — had no clue that his organization would be experiencing calamity at the conclusion of his press conference.

Minutes after Stone walked away from reporters, news broke that Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. was arrested in New York on charges of assault and strangulation on his girlfriend, Kysre Gondrezick.

As hours progressed, details of the alleged assault surfaced, including information that Porter punched Gondrezick in the face multiple times and grabbed her by the neck. It was revealed that Gondrezick complained of neck pain, and after being observed at a local hospital, it was determined she had suffered a fractured vertebra.

On Tuesday, Porter entered a not-guilty plea and was told by the judge that he must again appear before the court on Oct. 16, 2023.

With media day and the start of 2023-24 training camp approaching quickly in early October, Stone will soon have to answer questions concerning the character of the organization moving forward.

Many still question the hiring of new head coach Ime Udoka, who was suspended and eventually fired from the Celtics after leading his team to the NBA Finals in his first year. It was revealed that Udoka had an improper relationship with a woman on Boston’s staff.

Although he was remorseful in his introductory press conference, even admitting that he attended counseling with his son to help heal, Udoka still came under criticism regarding his character. Some media and fans questioned if he had truly learned from past mistakes.

Stone wants this team to move forward in a new direction, but at every turn, some chaos has kept the Rockets on the launch pad.

Former All-Star guards Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and John Wall all parted with the organization under somewhat strained terms at the time. Interestingly enough, it was the Porter experiment at point guard that led to the Rockets seeing less of a role for Wall. On the sidelines, former head coach Stephen Silas began the process of Houston’s current rebuild but wasn’t allowed to see it all the way through, and he was subsequently replaced by Udoka.

The Rockets are 59-177 (.250) over the previous three seasons, with a record at the bottom of the Western Conference in each. Even after signing marquee veterans like Fred VanVleet, Dillon Brooks, and Jeff Green this offseason, the task of improving the on-court product is not easy, and it is likely to take the organization some time.

At the same time, Stone also needs to restore the franchise’s image. Between Udoka’s baggage and recent developments surrounding Porter, that aspect of the rebuild could prove just as challenging.

Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire