About a week before his first training camp starts, and just after player-organized workouts in New York, Fear the Sword caught up with Cavs rookie Kevin Porter Jr. to learn how he’s prepared for the season, what’s been most surprising about the process, his bond with GM Koby Altman and more.
Fear the Sword: For someone coming into the league, what has this summer — getting drafted, going to summer league, but not playing and all of the other prep — been like for you?
Kevin Porter Jr.: I’ve been really focused on my health and just getting prepared for the season. Like you said, I’ve taken time off in the summer, missing things like summer league, just to rehab and get ready for preseason and training camp. I’ve just been working and really just trusting my body when it’s to play and really get after it.
FTS: Guys like Donovan Mitchell and other had tweeted this summer about they felt younger guys that didn’t play in summer league are missing something by not playing. Do you feel like you missed anything by not actually getting game time in Vegas?
KP: Um, just that I missed the feel of the game, playing on the bigger court and getting comfortable with my teammates and coaches was definitely something that I missed. But other than that, I feel I’ll be ready. With training camp approaching, I feel like the process has been great for me and for us as a whole, as a team and I’m very confident.
FTS: Did you know Darius [Garland] and Collin [Sexton] and Dylan [Windler] and the other young guys before you spent a bunch of time around them this summer?
KP: Me and Dylan actually got close during the combine this year - that was our first time interacting with each other. But me and DG been knowing each other for years and had been close for years. So, we definitely are comfortable with each other.
FTS: When you guys find out you’re going to be playing together, who reaches out to who and what is that interaction like?
KP: Actually, right after the media circuit — after you get drafted, there’s a whole media circuit you go to — but after that, we were like ‘that’s crazy how we both ended up here.’ It’s crazy that we’re on the same team because we’ve always dreamed of playing in the NBA and didn’t know we’d be playing together.
FTS: Did you know coach Beilein, be it through the recruiting process or different camps or anything before you got drafted?
KP: I met coach Beilein during my combine interview and after that, we’ve been in touch.
FTS: What do you think of a guy making the jump from college — high-level college, to be fair — to the NBA?
KP: I feel like it’s a good jump and we’re a young team and he’s a new coach, we have a lot of new coaches and it’s a whole new team. We’re really just being able to develop with a new coach and new team and we’re all on the same page. It’s all about getting familiar with one another and I feel like it’s a good jump that he made.
FTS: What has been the unexpected part of what it’s like to prepare for an NBA season?
KP: I didn’t expect as much importance on off the court as there is, dealing with this league. Me adjusting to my everyday routine is something that I’ve been doing just being consistent with that and that’s been the main thing I’ve been adjusting to.
FTS: What’s a normal day like for you?
KP: Normal day.. get up at 7:30, eight, get to the facility at 8:30, nine. Eat breakfast, pre-hab before I start weights. And then you have weights and then team work after weights, on-court work after weights and then you go about an hour, hour-thirty on the court and then there’s post-hab and lunch. And that’s about that and then you get extra work out there after, which we usually do extra work after. It’s a long morning, more of a long morning than a long day. It’s very convenient and you have a lot of time on your hands. I’m just getting adapted to not going to school. [laughs] And just having that free time after you play basketball is new to me.
FTS: Did you spend most of the summer back home in Seattle?
KP: Ya, I was going back and forth from Cleveland and Seattle.
FTS: What has your first impression of Cleveland been like?
KP: It’s kinda like a duplicate of Seattle, there’s a lot of nature. The vibes out here are good, the people out here are fun and excited for our season, very loyal fans. And that’s exactly how Seattle is. Unfortunately, we don’t have an NBA team, but hopefully we do get one. And when we did have on, the fans were crazy — that’s just how it is out here. People know how it is at U-Dub (University of Washington) games and stuff like that, so. So ya, it’s a duplicate of Seattle I’d say — the nature and the scenery is all familiar.
FTS: What was the week like in New York in working out with Kevin [Love] and all of the other vets and getting those player-organized workouts in?
KP: In New York, that was the first time the whole team was there and the first time we had really spent time together and was bonding and playing with each other. That was good time for us, just to get familiar with each other and how we play and which roles we’re going to play. That was a good time just for bonding and getting to know each other.
Kevin Love set that up for us just to go out there with him and play a couple games and go out to dinner and stuff like that, so it was like a time vacation, but we’re still playing basketball of course.
FTS: Training camp is about a week or so away at this point - are you going to be fully cleared to go at the start of it?
KP: Ya, for sure. I’m full-go.
FTS: Do you a vision of what your role is going to be or have a role that you want to carve out for yourself?
KP: No. I felt like I did that last year [at USC] - I set the expectations very high for myself and the team and that kind of put a lot of pressure on myself and added unnecessary stress. I feel like, as a team and for me, I’m just going to play it out however it is and really just get to know each other and be comfortable with everybody. And once that happens, then roles will start appearing. I feel like we’re just taking it one step at a time.
FTS: Do you feel that people that don’t know you well or are looking at it from the outside have a misunderstanding of what your once USC season was like?
KP: Ya, that was a tough time that I went through as a player and as a person. Definitely feel like people ... see me as something I’m not. But it was a whole misunderstanding and me and the coaching staff at SC are still very close. And I feel like it was a experience I had to go through to grow up and become the man I am right now.
FTS: With Puma, did you need to be comfortable with the shoe, considering they are just back in the space, before you signed there? And what about them appeals to you as a partner?
KP: Ya, definitely. You don’t want to just sign anywhere just because of finances or whatever. At the end of the day, you’ve got to perform in ‘em every night. I wanted to be in a shoe that I was most comfortable and Puma definitely the most comfortable shoe I’ve played in. There’s a lot of things that took place in my decision to go with Puma, and I’m happy with my decision.
I make decisions about where I want to be in 5-10 years and in 5-10 years, I think Puma will be up there with Nike and everything and I want to be a part of something that wasn’t already established, that’s kind of building up from the ground. And I feel like Puma will be one of those brands that will be praised in about 2-3 years and I just wanted to be a part of it just because they are developing and I have a lot of stuff I have to develop too. It’s an opportunity to be a face of the brand.
FTS: What do you think of the Cavs’ throwback 90s jerseys?
KP: All of the exclusives, the throwback jerseys are jerseys that we don’t wear often - I’m definitely going to have a nice, exclusive shoe with the jersey. That’s just how I am. I’m a little into fashion, so you have to look good to play good. Just a cliche motto I go by.
I like ‘em. I’m a black and blue person, so I actually like ‘em a lot. My favorite jersey by the Cavs would be the statement edition, I think, from last year — the blue and orange ones. Those are my high school jersey colors, so I like those the most. Unfortunately, we’re not wearing those this year.
FTS: As you come into the league and there’s all of this player movement, what do you make of it?
KP: I really just observed everything that didn’t turn out to be what it was or what we thought it was going to be. As far as draft night and after that, I’ve just been observing everything and just being motivated by the things that I think should have happened and didn’t. I just use that as motivation and while I observe things, I learn and build relationships. It’s really just a process that I’m just adjusting to and getting used to.
FTS: In going through the draft process, did you think the Cavs were a team that wanted you as much as it seems they did and that this was were you might end up?
KP: The Cavs was really a very likely place that I thought I was going to go just because me and Koby [Altman] were just in touch a lot during my college season and we’ve talked plenty of times with him just giving me advice on being a better player and stuff like that. I felt the love right away, him coming to my games and taking the time out to come see me. I knew the Cavs were in consideration, but I didn’t know at the end of the day. You don’t know what’s going to happen draft night.
FTS: I think it does say a lot that they went out and spent what they did to get the pick to draft you.
KP: Ya, that tells me that they wanted me and I want to play for a team that actually genuinely wants me there and wants to get better and wants to work with me, so I was very fortunate to land in Cleveland.