Raptors react to Jontay Porter gambling investigation: ‘It’s just part of our sports now’

TORONTO — The rule of thumb about professional basketball players gambling on sports is easy enough to grasp.

“I think it’s just simple: Just stay away from basketball stuff,” Toronto Raptors forward Jordan Nwora said before his team lost 96-88 to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night. “And other than that, you’re good. That’s what we learned about it. Same going as far back as college.”

Just before Monday’s game, ESPN reported Raptors centre Jontay Porter was away from the team as he was the subject of a gambling investigation ​by the league concerning two games that Porter left early. Porter’s prop bets were the top moneymakers on both nights, according to the DraftKings Sportsbook Insights, published daily and distributed to media members, The Athletic confirmed. Porter’s made 3-pointers over/under was set at 0.5 for both games, and he didn’t attempt a 3 in either game before leaving early — once for the aggravation of an eye injury and once for an illness, per the team’s in-game injury updates

Porter was not with the team for the Raptors game in Washington on Saturday or Monday in Toronto.

One need not understand the intricacies of the report to understand that an investigation like this was inevitable given provinces and states continuing to legalize different forms of sports gambling. It’s something players have been keenly aware of for years now.

“It’s crazy. It’s just part of our sports now. It’s something that’s on a weird line right now,” Raptors swingman Ochai Agbaji said. “I feel like sports betting has always been around, but it hasn’t been as popular since … ever, so it’s becoming more popular and obviously you’re gonna have stuff like this. And it’s unfortunate, but stuff like this is gonna happen, especially when stuff is so close — like sports betting and gambling and the sport itself is being crossed. … You see (it) everywhere.”

Raptors swingman Garrett Temple, a vice-president of the National Basketball Players Association, was quick to say nothing has been proven and that Porter is still a member of the Raptors and the players association, and will be supported as such. He pointed out that the NBPA has made meetings on gambling education mandatory for all players, even before the wave of legalization in recent years, adding that he understands how it has become a major issue for many players.

“At the end of the day, guys are still going to ask when you go to the barbershop or when you’re walking around town, guys that bet may question, ‘Who’s playing tonight?’ Temple said. “Obviously that’s something that as a veteran, or as a player, you (say), ‘I don’t know who is playing tonight, man. You’ve got to come to the game and watch.’ Quips like that to just make it light-hearted and we move on.

“That’s something maybe as a PA we need to just even put more time into educating guys how to navigate those things.”

That interaction has come under the microscope recently as Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and Indiana Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton have detailed their experiences with those who have wagered on games.

“That’s been a part of it for probably the past two or three years, and fans slamming you for not hitting their bet,” Agbaji said. “That’s an every night thing for every single one of us in this locker room.”

Added Nwora, “You get messages. You hear it on the sideline. You see guys talking about it all the time. … Tyrese just said it the other day — (we’re props), yeah. It comes with being in the NBA. People bet on silly things on a daily basis.

“People don’t complain when you have a good game. … I don’t get messages with people saying, ‘Thank you for helping me.’ It just is what it is. Just tune it out or just don’t look at your messages.”

News broke earlier this week that the NBA is introducing betting into its streaming of live games on NBA League Pass, allowing viewers to show certain betting lines during a game while watching on the mobile app. Only point spreads, money lines and over/unders for the total points in a game are being shown currently. (The Athletic has had a partnership with BetMGM since 2021.)

“It’s definitely interesting. It’s definitely awkward. … You watch a game and you may see FanDuel or DraftKings as a big-time sponsor for a team,” Temple said. “Obviously it’s (against the rules) for us to do it in any regard, any type of professional basketball, resembling NBA, G League, WNBA. We understand that.

“It is awkward. But at the same time, like I say, we understand what we’re getting ourselves into.”

(Photo: Rick Osentoski / USA Today)

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