Alperen Sengun rests sore groin; Rockets start Jabari Smith Jr. at center
HOUSTON — Alperen Sengun was scratched by the Rockets prior to Monday’s game versus Boston. While he was listed earlier on the injury report with a left groin strain, his designation was probable and head coach Stephen Silas expressed surprise pregame.
“After last game, he felt a little something,” Silas said. “Yesterday he went through the short (practice) we had on the court, so I thought he was gonna be OK. Then, we just had a walk-through upstairs … and he said he still kind of felt it, and he went from probable to out.”
“I wouldn’t think it would last more than a game, but with the groin injury you never know,” Silas said. “Hopefully it won’t be very long, but who knows, I was expecting him to play tonight.”
Now 20 years old and in his second NBA season, Sengun is averaging 14.7 points (55.5% FG, 31.8% on 3-pointers), 8.7 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in 28.3 minutes per game with the Rockets.
Alperen Sengun (left groin strain) is out tonight versus Boston, but he’s still dressed out and going through his usual pregame routine with John Lucas. Shouldn’t be a long absence at all, possible he plays Wednesday versus the Lakers. #Rockets pic.twitter.com/uXTyycxwl0
— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) March 13, 2023
With Sengun out, the Rockets shifted rookie forward Jabari Smith Jr. to center and started fellow rookie Tari Eason at power forward. The Celtics had Al Horford as their only big in the starting lineup, which made it easier for Houston to turn to a frontcourt with increased athleticism among Smith, Eason and KJ Martin.
In pregame comments, Smith indicated a willingness to experiment with the center position as his young NBA career progresses.
“I’ve just got to be a little bit more physical, with protecting the rim and doing different stuff,” Smith said (via Rockets Wire’s Brian Barefield). “As I get stronger, I feel like that’s where my advantage will be. That’s where I’ll be the biggest mismatch for other fives in the league. As I keep learning that position, I feel I can play that.”
Smith enters playing the best ball of his 2022-23 rookie season to date, with averages of over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game on strong shooting percentages over his previous three games.
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Houston Rockets rookie Jabari Smith Jr. talks about playing center tonight against the Boston Celtics with Alperen Sengun out of the lineup. #Sarge #Rockets @TheRocketsWire pic.twitter.com/uEYaKJ0MBC
— #SARGE (@BigSargeSportz) March 14, 2023