What Jontay Porter’s “ban” means. Plus, Jimmy Butler absence expected as 76ers advance

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Blake Griffin shaped how fans consume NBA content. More on that below.

Jontay Porter Banned

NBA drops hammer for gambling

Yesterday, the NBA levied one of the biggest punishments in its history on former Raptors two-way player Jontay Porter. The press release explained that the 24-year-old has been banned from the NBA, which comes off as a longtime ban. The NBA found that Porter violated the league’s rules by “disclosing confidential information to sports bettors, limiting his own participation in one or more games for betting purposes and betting on NBA games.”

With what the league statement laid out, banning Porter was a very easy call to make. The big red flag that tipped off the investigation was a known NBA bettor placing an $80,000 parlay bet to win $1.1 million for a game on March 20, predicting Porter to underperform. That night, Porter played three minutes and left because he “felt ill.” That, plus the unusual betting activity, caused the online sportsbook to freeze the bet without paying it out.

Pro-tip: An $80,000 parlay bet to win $1.1 million on the underperformance of a two-way contract player is like sending the Bat-Signal into the sky to security departments.

Here are the three biggest takeaways from the league’s announcement:

1. Porter was making NBA bets between January and March of this year. 

The league found at least 13 instances of Porter betting on the NBA using an associate’s online account. Porter was signed by the Raptors to a two-way deal in December and possibly started betting shortly after. His bets totaled $54,000 but resulted in a total net gain of roughly $22,000. I absolutely believe the league released these totals to show how little it paid off for him, relative to an NBA player’s salary.

2. He bet on the Raptors to lose a game. 

This is the league’s big sticking point in this entire betting scandal. I have no idea if the NBA would have shown Porter a shred of mercy had he not bet on his team to lose, but doing so made banning him a no-brainer. When he’s betting on underperformance for himself or aiding in those bets, that’s a form of point-shaving the league would likely try to eradicate through severe punishment. But actually betting on the Raptors to lose — even though this team was putting out lineups due to injury that would help secure its top-six protected pick — is too far.

3. The league really wants to emphasize that its system works. 

On several occasions within the statement, the NBA and Adam Silver make sure to let you know this was tracked in a way to help safeguard the world of online gambling the NBA has embraced. And they let you know the league’s betting partners are consistently working with them to keep everything above board. In other words, everything is working just fine.

Silver lining for Porter: Though this could lead to federal prosecution, his brother is Michael Porter Jr. of the Denver Nuggets, the same MPJ who has $172 million guaranteed to him in his current contract. Jontay will probably be just fine monetarily — or so I assume.

The Latest From Shams

Clark nearing deal with Nike

Caitlin Clark’s off-the-court portfolio continues to grow. The basketball phenom — whom the WNBA’s Indiana Fever drafted No. 1 overall Monday — is nearing a lucrative, eight-figure endorsement deal with Nike, industry sources told The Athletic.

Clark is expected to receive a signature Nike shoe as well, those sources said. Under Armour and Adidas also made sizable offers to Clark, two industry sources said.

Mike Vorkunov, Ben Pickman and I have more details here on Clark’s previous deal with Nike, her impact on ratings and overall interest in the sport and more.

Jimmy Butler’s MCL

Heat lose to Sixers, maybe lose star

A gutty performance by Joel Embiid (11 of his 23 points came in the fourth) and Nicolas Batum (20 points off the bench) surprisingly donning a superhero cape won’t be the story of the Sixers’ 105-104 victory over the Heat last night. Philadelphia grabbed the No. 7 seed and will face the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs. While there’s plenty of time to examine that matchup in the coming days, the story from this game is the MCL of Jimmy Butler. He’s expected to miss multiple weeks.

The Heat were NBA finalists a season ago, but they’re not the same without Butler healthy and locked in. They made it through the gauntlet of the East playoffs last year as the No. 8 seed, but it’s hard to be confident they’ll even make it past the Chicago Bulls on Friday to clinch the East’s last playoff spot. The Bulls smoked the Hawks 131-116 to set up Friday’s matchup with the Heat. While Miami has a history of toughness and resilience, repeating what happened last year doesn’t look possible.

Coach Erik Spoelstra needs Tyler Herro to play far better than he did last night. At times, Herro struggled so much with dribbling that it made Buddy Hield’s defense look like prime Scottie Pippen’s. Even with Butler not completely on his game, he still managed 19 points, four rebounds, five assists and five steals. But he barely made an impact in the fourth quarter as his knee injury clearly hampered him.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. has been a brilliant rookie for the Heat. Caleb Martin was phenomenal in the playoffs last year. Herro has had moments before. Bam Adebayo has come up huge for them. They’ll likely need all that just to surpass Chicago on Friday. And, even if that does happen, the 64-win Celtics lurk as the first-round prize for Friday’s winner.

Blake Griffin Tribute

He created social media

I’ve long held this belief that YouTube was created so we could have easy access to Vince Carter highlights. Even if that wasn’t technically the reason for YouTube’s inception, it makes sense to me cosmically. The universe didn’t want us to keep going to Limewire and risk downloading viruses. In a very similar way, I believe social media (more specifically Basketball Twitter) was invented to give us instant Blake Griffin highlights in the early 2010s.

We knew Griffin was an athletic freak at Oklahoma, but by the time he reached the NBA and found himself on the court as a redshirt rookie, Griffin was separating himself from the elite of the elite when it came to athleticism. Twitter had mostly replaced live chats on sports websites as Griffin hit the NBA scene, so you couldn’t watch a night of basketball without seeing his surreal dunks on a second screen experience.

Griffin was more than a dunker, but the artform is what he’s known for. He made six All-Star Games and five All-NBA teams. During his first nine years on an NBA court (remember he missed his first season), he averaged 21.9 points, nine rebounds and 4.5 assists while making 50.2 percent of his shots. Nine players in NBA history have averaged at least 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists (Blake’s career averages) for their career. Five are in the Hall of Fame (Wilt Chamberlain, Billy Cunningham, Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird, Chris Webber). Three are active players (Nikola Jokić, Luka Dončić, Giannis Antetokounmpo). And there’s Blake. Add in those accolades, and he should make it to Springfield some day.

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Ultimately, the dunks do matter and are a massive part of his story. Much like Vince Carter when he burst into the league, the action was synonymous with Griffin as a player. He grabbed the attention of people on social media like you can’t imagine and was one of those “you had to be there” phenomena. The dunk above on Timofey Mozgov damn near tore web servers down. Griffin had so many amazing dunks that you can get lost on YouTube for hours in that rabbit hole.

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Minutes after the dunk happened, Mozgov teammate and Knicks big man Amar’e Stoudemire, known for his own physical exploits jumping and dunking, had a brief moment with Griffin at the free-throw line. He gave Griffin a look of amazement, nod of approval and proof that some guys just galvanize those before them who have wowed everybody in the sport. Salute to Blake Griffin for his incredible career and legitimizing those of us wanting to bond with strangers over ridiculous athletic feats.

Bounce Passes

Do not miss out on Dane Brugler’s comprehensive 2024 NFL Draft Guide, a.k.a. The Beast.

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(Top photo: Jesse D. Garrabrant / Getty Images )

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