Huge Rockets bust-up leads to Porter Jr. ‘throwing object’ and leaving arena

A massive Houston Rockets half-time bust-up reportedly led to two players refusing to play in the second half, with one of them leaving the Toyota Center completely.

Rockets point guard Kevin Porter Jr. also reportedly “threw an object” during the half-time altercation prior to departing the arena during Saturday’s 124-111 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

According to separate reports by ESPN and The Athletic, Porter Jr. lost his temper after he became upset when assistant coach John Lucas challenged him and other players over their effort during the first half. Porter Jr. had earlier lost his composure on the bench during the first half, sources said, when challenged about the same issue.

Another one of the players challenged during the fraught locker room exchange was Christian Wood, who averaged a team-high 17.3 points and 10.6 rebounds in 31.5 minutes per game entering Saturday.

Wood played eight scoreless minutes in the first half (with just one rebound), during which Houston was outscored by 17 points, and did not play in the second half although he was on the Rockets bench.

“Coach’s decision,” Stephen Silas said, regarding Wood sitting out the second half, but Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the center “refused to substitute into the game in the second half”, which contradicts the head coach’s comments.

Sources: After Rockets assistant John Lucas called out multiple players including Kevin Porter Jr. and Christian Wood at halftime tonight vs. Nuggets, Porter had a heated exchange with Lucas, threw an object and promptly left the arena – and Wood refused to sub into second half.

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 2, 2022

Wood wasn’t a starter for the first time in 76 games, and Rockets coach Silas confirmed that he was being disciplined for violating team rules.

“We’re basically going to keep that internal,” Silas said postgame of the situation with Wood. “But he broke a team rule, I didn’t start him, and decided not to play him in the second half.”

According to earlier reporting by Shams Charania of The Athletic, Wood was benched after missing a mandatory Covid-19 testing window, and he refused to substitute into the game in the second half.

Head coach Silas refused to mention Porter Jr. specifically after the game, but did say: “I have certain demands of this team as far as playing hard. I wasn’t satisfied with the effort.”

The Rockets announced during the second half that Porter Jr. was questionable to return due to his left thigh being evaluated, but although he has been troubled by a left thigh contusion, that was not the issue that led to his absence after halftime, reported ESPN. A Rockets source told The Athletic after the Porter Jr. had been in touch to apologise to the team for the overreaction.

Houston is now 10-27 and has lost seven in a row. The Rockets have struggled badly since James Harden forced a trade last year and more roster churn may be ahead before the team’s current rebuild is complete – especially if this latest incident is anything to go by.