The Houston Rockets suspended Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. for their actions during Saturday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets. Both players missed Monday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
During halftime of Saturday’s game, longtime Rockets’ assistant coach John Lucas challenged Porter over an issue with his play in the first half. Porter became angry and left the arena.
“We had a spirited debate,” Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said during his postgame media availability. “I have certain demands of this team as far as playing hard. … I wasn’t satisfied with the effort.”
Wood was benched to start Saturday’s game for failing to show up for the team’s daily COVID-19 testing, which caused the team’s shootaround to be delayed. Wood was seen pouting on the sidelines because of the benching, and when he was asked to check in, he showed no desire to do so.
“We had a disagreement as far as him going back into the game in the second half, and I decided it would be best for the team [to suspend him],” Silas said. “It’s very much attached to accountability for everybody on our team. My job is to hold people accountable to their actions and not overreact at all, but react appropriately.”
The Rockets are 10-28 and one of the worst teams in the league. Losing games is not good for culture or player development if the right mechanisms are not in place.
But this is what happens when you clearly are in tank mode and you have too many young and immature players on a roster with no veteran leadership.
John Lucas is one of the most well-respected men in the NBA. If he is challenging a player, it is likely for a good reason. Porter has a documented history of anger issues that he is working to resolve, but this type of behavior is uncalled for. This is where a veteran steps in to check the 21-year-old.
The thing about an NBA locker room is, coaches have influence but the players police themselves. Every well functioning team has a respected veteran or two that can check players when they step out of line.
Who is that for the Rockets?
Eric Gordon or DJ Augustin? Those two don’t have the gravitas for that role. It could have been John Wall, but the Rockets chose not to have him around the team.
With Woods, at 26, he should know better. Missing the team’s COVID testing and delaying the day is an extremely selfish act. To then pout about it on the sidelines and refuse to enter the game when asked shows an extreme lack of maturity.
Silas is doing the best he can in this scenario. This wasn’t what he signed up for. When he got the head coaching job he thought he would have James Harden, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and a mix of youth and veteran guys. Once Harden forced his way out of Houston, it was time to reset.
While the Rockets clearly have an eye on the long term, it would behoove them to have some respected vets on the roster to help Silas police this kind of behavior. That may result in the team winning more games and impacting their draft position.
But what does it matter if you have excellent young talent and no culture of accountability that can be enforced?
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