Kevin Porter Jr. has been waiting for this moment for a long time — 65 days to be exact.
November 2 inside the Staples Center, Porter missed a 26-foot step-back jump shot in the closing seconds of the Houston Rockets’ 119-117 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Had Porter connected on the game-winner, the shot would have been a vindication to his growth as the Rockets’ starting point guard.
But Wednesday night, two months since he missed his first career buzzer-beater, Porter’s game-winner that ensued in a Rockets’ 114-111 win over the Washington Wizards, was worth more than a shot to halt an eight-game losing streak. It was a shot filled with love, hope and redemption for Houston’s young star. Porter said:
“We are going to stay together through thick and thin, and I feel like we showed that tonight. We needed this win. We had a couple that we could have gotten throughout this losing streak that we were on, and we wanted it. We wanted to start the year off right. We lost the first one, but we got this one.”
Following the well-documented events on New Year’s Day, the Rockets’ win inside the Capital One Arena wasn’t just a redemption night for Porter — but also Christian Wood. Both players were coming off a one-game suspension and demonstrated why they are foundational pieces to the Rockets’ rebuild.
A delighted coach Stephen Silas took to his post-game press conference in awe of the performance Wood had in the win — on a night where he scored 22 points (8-12 FG, 6-6 FT) and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds. Silas described Wood’s on-court production against the Wizards as the most solid game he has played through the first 39 contests of the 2021-22 campaign.
What Silas noticed about Wood throughout the game was his renewed focus and engagement on both ends of the court, which is something that was not present during the eight minutes he played during the Rockets’ blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
Wood decided not to address the incident from his point of view but stated that he apologized for his actions. By choosing to keep the issue internally, it was another indication that demonstrated that Wood, Silas, and the team had moved on from the distracting event. Wood said:
“This was a bounce-back game for us, and it showed the growth that K.P. and I have. We just have to keep at it and not let up. We are all a family. There are going to be arguments, but we have moved past it. I apologized, and we are good now.”
“It was just a team thing, an internal thing. I apologized to the team, Tilman Fertitta, and Rafael Stone. Luc [John Lucas] is my guy, he’s known me before. Silas, he’s always had my back. He knows my mom, and he knows my family.”
Forty-eight hours prior to Porter’s game-winning shot and Wood’s prominent play in the nation’s capital, Silas did not know what the future had in store for his two suspended players.
At the time of the team sanction, their vacant contributions amid the Rockets’ loss to the Philadelphia 76ers were not a concern for Silas. Instead, Silas’ thoughts were on the potential growth of Porter and Wood as people — hoping that the tandem would learn from their significant blunder.
Silas’ cautiousness for his players’ well-being is a testament to why many on the Rockets view their coach as a paramount figure beyond the court. During media day in September, Porter said having a coach who can talk to his players outside of Xs and Os is where he is most appreciative for Silas. Porter said:
“It means the world. It means, he’s [Silas] behind me, and I never have to question that. He has always been behind me since I stepped foot in this organization. He made it clear that this is the way it is going to be with our relationship, and he knows full force that I am behind him. I 100 percent got his back through everything.”
Recording their 11th victory of the season after picking up 28 losses did assist the Rockets in their healing process, but win or lose, it was love that ultimately helped Houston surpass the altercation.
After Porter drilled the game-winning triple, he and Silas took a moment to embrace each other with a hug following the final buzzer. Silas said it was the perfect opportunity to embrace Porter, and he would have done it whether or not his young guard made the basket.
Silas’ hug is a pillar of the Rockets’ culture that is built on structure, improvements and now forgiveness. Silas said:
“Prior to the game, everybody was talking about our culture and stuff. It’s just funny how life is. I told them in the locker room how proud I am of those guys fighting back from where they were. We gave them a lot of support, obviously, but the character showed.”
It’s the love for these guys and how much I care about them. I don’t like to see them go through stuff, but then they bounce back like how C-Wood and Scoot did — I am just happy for them both.”