Kevin Porter Jr. returns to Cleveland as active player for first time
For Houston Rockets point guard Kevin Porter Jr., Sunday night’s game is somewhat of a homecoming. No, he is not returning to play in his hometown of Seattle. He is going back to Cleveland, the city that gave him an opportunity to play in the NBA. The Cavaliers drafted Porter out of the University of Southern California with the No. 30 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft.
Porter appeared in only 50 games there, mainly due to disciplinary issues, before Cleveland traded him to the Rockets for a heavily protected second-round draft pick in January 2021. This is Porter’s first time playing in Cleveland since he was traded, as he was out the two previous games due to injury. His only time playing against his former team was a 115-104 win in Houston in February 2022.
One player Porter could lean on during the rough times in Cleveland was Larry Nance Jr., who took the rookie under his wing and tried to provide the best veteran leadership he could. Even though things did not work out for Porter there, the friendship and bond lingered.
“I got to be with him in Cleveland when he was like 19, 20, and 21,” said Nance, who currently plays in New Orleans. “Relationships like that when you get to see a kid, see a dude come in and grow, and now he is in his second contract and got paid a little bit. I am just so happy when I see him. Obviously, he is someone I am always, always rooting for as long as we are not playing them.”
“K.P. (Kevin Porter Jr.) is one of the most talented players I have had the pleasure of being around,” said New Orleans Pelicans center Larry Nance Jr. who was teammates with Porter when he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers. #Rockets #Sarge @TheRocketsWire @Kevinporterjr pic.twitter.com/cugIrInl5j
— #SARGE (@BigSargeSportz) March 26, 2023
Nance also elaborated on the development he has seen from Porter on the court, especially with the transition from small forward to the point guard position over the past two seasons.
“KP (Porter) is one of the more talented players I have had the pleasure of being around,” he said. “Obviously, he is a freak athlete. He is super shifty and quick with all his moves. For him, the biggest thing I think I have seen is his ability to control the pace of a game.”
“He is learning to play the point guard position, and with that comes some ups and downs of learning how to control pace and tempo,” Nance said. “He has done a really good job, especially as the year has gone on of learning when to stop and go and push the pace and slow down. It is starting to show at the end of the year. They (the Rockets) have rattled off a few wins, and he has been a major part of that.”
Porter echoed that sentiment when he heard Nance’s statements about his progress and maturity in such a short time in the NBA.
“That is my guy,” Porter said of Nance after facing the Pelicans earlier this month in Houston. “He was always someone who I could talk to about anything. He checked up on me and gave me tips on how to be a better pro, both on and off the court.”
Porter, 22, is having the best season of his NBA career, averaging 18.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game. He’s currently finishing up his third season in Houston and fourth in the league.
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