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Rockets’ Locker-Room Squabble Ends With Kevin Porter Jr. Driving Home At Halftime

Jalen Green #0 of the Houston Rockets dunks the ball during the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers at Toyota Center on December 28, 2021 in Houston, Texas.
There are no photos from last night's Nuggets-Rockets game, so here's this neat picture of Jalen Green.
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

It isn’t necessarily the losing that gets you. Very often, it’s someone else pointing out that you’re part of the reason the losing is happening, and sometimes it gets you angry enough to drop your tools and walk off the job.

Take the Houston Rockets, their 10-27 record, and a 47-point second quarter allowed to the Denver Nuggets in Saturday’s desultory 124-111 Nuggets win. Assistant coach John Lucas got into Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. during the halftime fingerpoint, as a continuation of a debate the two had at the bench during the first half; the two got into a shouting match; and Porter left the arena (fortunately for him, the Rockets were playing at home). In fact it went so well that Christian Wood, who had been benched for violating a team rule but remains the most appealing Rocket to other teams as the trade deadline approaches, played barely eight minutes in the first half and refused to go into the game in the second half. Indeed, the Rockets barely reached the court before the start of the third quarter.

It was a hot mess befitting the worst team in the Western Conference, and now that the Detroit Pistons have won one of their last one games, maybe the worst team in the league. Head coach Stephen Silas called it “a spirited debate” in his latest postmortem, adding, “I have certain demands of this team as far as playing hard … I wasn’t satisfied with the effort.”

Porter was described by The Athletic’s Kelly Iko as “apologetic” when a Rockets front-office member reached out to him later, but this might not blow over easily. Teams with 10-27 records who embarrass themselves tend to hold grudges until the trade deadline that all players believe are their salvation. In the cases of the members of the Rockets’ front office, who are probably more irked by the 10 wins than the 27 losses, this happened at an inauspicious time given that the Rockets had announced their second sellout of the season, which meant they more than half-filled the arena when allowing for the 25 percent inflation rate of most announced attendances. They took an 11-point lead five minutes in, were outscored 73-40 between then and halftime, and rang in the new year like it was overtime of last year.

But if tanking is still the goal here, and it most assuredly is, well done to the fellas. If you’re going to hate your situation, hate it big, and hate everyone in your sightline as you do. After all, the battle for the entertainment dollar is an uphill barfight these days, and those seats for next Friday’s home game against Dallas aren’t going to half-fill themselves.