Raptors’ Porter subject of gambling investigation

TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors season took another turn for the worse as backup centre Jontay Porter became the subject of a gambling investigation.

Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic confirmed late Monday that Porter is the subject of an NBA investigation into irregularities on prop betting involving him. Rajakovic said the allegations “caught him off guard” when he learned of the investigation before Toronto’s 96-88 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

“I did not talk to the players so I do not know their reaction,” said Rajakovic. “I just know that nobody wants that kind of situation to happen to anybody, to any team, and we’re just going to deal with it.”

ESPN first reported the investigation about an hour before tipoff in Toronto. The American sports broadcaster said the probe included Porter’s performance in games on Jan. 26 and March 20. In both games, Porter played briefly before leaving, citing injury or illness; he played four minutes 24 seconds against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first of those games, then played 2:43 against Sacramento in the second game.

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“From my perspective as a coach, I never doubt injuries, I never doubt the honesty of players,” said Rajakovic. “Obviously, I’ve never had a situation like this before so I did not (find Porter’s ailments suspicious.)”

In both cases, Porter did not come close to hitting the prop-wager lines for points, rebounds and three-pointers that bettors could play. ESPN said the props surrounding Porter for the Clippers game were 5.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists; he finished with no points, three rebounds and one assist. For the Kings game, they were around 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds; Porter finished that game with no points and two rebounds.

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Veteran forward Garrett Temple, a vice-president for the NBA players’ association and the Raptors team rep with the union, said he was surprised by the news.

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“At the end of the day nothing has been proven yet,” said Temple. “It’s an investigation and he’s a member of our team, a member of our organization, but also a member of the 450 (union members).

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“My position is that we’re backing him and hope that it’s not what has been implied.”

Porter has been on Toronto’s inactive list since Saturday for “personal reasons.” Rajakovic had given Porter a more prominent role in the Raptors’ rotation after starting centre Jakob Poeltl had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left hand on March 6.

There was still a nameplate above Porter’s locker at Scotiabank Arena before Monday’s game but the stall was empty. Few of his teammates were in Toronto’s locker room pre-game, with one refusing to answer any questions about the situation.

“It really happened right before the game the news broke out and we were focused on basketball, we were focused on the game tonight,” said Rajakovic. “I was trying to get organized and ready for the game tonight.”

Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada where betting on sports through online bettors is legal. However, the NBA has strict rules on gambling.

Anyone affiliated with the NBA — players or employees for any of the 30 teams or the league overall — cannot bet on the NBA or any of its properties. That includes the NBA, summer league, WNBA, G-League, Basketball Africa League or NBA2K League.

If sports betting is legal where that person is, betting on other sports is permitted.

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“We’ve had meetings about it every year, at least once a year, if not twice a year, during the season,” said Temple on the NBA and NBAPA’s anti-gambling education program. “Guys are there, everybody’s there, it’s mandatory to be there.

“So guys understand the stakes and understand what you should and shouldn’t do regarding that, so it’s continued. It’s always been at the forefront of our education.”

Jordan Nwora, who’s just in his second season in the NBA and first season in Toronto, said he couldn’t comment on Porter’s situation as he had only just learned about it himself from social media. However, he noted that he and other players constantly hear from fans about how their performance is impacting their bets.

“All the time. Non-stop,” said Nwora. “You get messages. You hear it on the sideline. You see guys talking about it all the time.

“It is what it is. It comes with being in the NBA. People bet on silly things on a daily basis. So I mean, it’s part of being in the NBA, it’s what comes with it. I get it.”

The 24-year-old Porter is averaging 4.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists over 13.8 minutes per game this season. He is on a two-way contract with the G League’s Raptors 905.

Porter also played in 11 games for Memphis in the 2020-21 season.

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— With files from The Associated Press.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2024.

&copy 2024 The Canadian Press

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