Ineligible Man Downfield: What to make of the Kevin Porter Jr. situation

Plus the latest news from around Cleveland.

It appears KPJ’s time in Cleveland is at an end.

It is hard to square the image of Kevin Porter Jr., laughing and clowning around with his teammates on the Cavs bench last Friday night, with the one that strode into the locker room afterwards. The Athletic reported that Porter Jr., upon realizing his locker had been moved to make way for Taurean Prince, who the Cavs recently traded for, unleashed a tirade. He yelled at GM Koby Altman. He yelled at head coach JB Bickerstaff. He even through a plate of food. Frustrated with the methodical approach the Cavs were taking with his integration back onto the team, Porter apparently had had enough.

The compass now points to the end of Porter’s time in Cleveland, though it had barely even begun. Porter hadn’t been with the team all season before that Friday night appearance after a tumultuous summer that you’ve no doubt read about by now. The Cavs had asked Porter to reach out for help (though in what capacity remains unknown) before he returned to the team, which, per multiple sources, Porter initially refused. Then followed a period of time where Porter was simply unreachable. But the pendulum felt like it was swinging the other way, culminating with Porter’s first public appearance with the team. He’d been practicing with the St. Ignatius basketball team and slowly working back into a routine with the Cavs. Then the outburst happened and all the summer’s difficulties came rushing back to the forefront.

If Porter is traded or released as is widely expected, he’ll leave Cleveland wondering what might’ve been. As a rookie, Porter flashed all the traits that made him so tantalizing both in the AAU circuit and as a freshman at USC. He could get wherever he wanted on the court with his handles, and his stepback was as lethal as advertised. His 3-point shot was inconsistent but improving. You could see the potential star power in games like the one he had against the Houston Rockets in December of 2019, when he poured in 24 points and took over the game in the fourth quarter.

It is hard to speak to what a player is dealing with when you can’t see the full picture. There was glimpse at it over the summer when Porter posted an ominous Instagram photo that worried a lot of people before it was deleted. Whether Porter is battling depression or another form of mental illness is hard to say, but there are certainly clues that he is dealing with something behind the scenes.

Porter was set to be a cornerstone of the Cavs young core. Now his future is very much unknown. For the kid that was smiling on the bench, experiencing a sense of normalcy for the first time in a while, it’s just really sad. — Jordan Zirm

Coming up on Friday, barring something unforeseen: Overdue words on Jarrett Allen, who is really, really exciting. — Chris Manning

ICYMI

As first reported by The Athletic, the Cavs are going to waive or trade Kevin Porter Jr.

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Who we are

Chris Manning: Site Manager at Fear the Sword, co-host of the Locked on Cavs podcast, words at places like Cleveland Magazine and Forbes. On Twitter @cwmwrites

Jordan Zirm: Social editor at @TheCheckdown. Formerly of ESPN Cleveland. Words at B/R, SB Nation and UPROXX. Host of The Rebuild podcast. On Twitter @clevezirm

Alex Hooper: Contributor at Fantasy Sports Insight. Former Cleveland Baseball Club beat writer for 92.3 the Fan (WKRK), and contributor at Sports Illustrated, Let’s Go Tribe, and the News-Herald. On Twitter @lexhooper.