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Jae’Sean Tate on new Rockets contract: ‘You can’t put a price on happiness’

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As an accomplished NBA starter and strong defender, the new contract for Houston Rockets forward Jae’Sean Tate (three years, $22.1 million) is viewed by many around the league as a relative bargain, particularly when considering the team option for the final season.

Yet, it should be noted that the Rockets let Tate out of his earlier ⁠— and much cheaper ⁠— contract a year early, which gave Tate a sizable bump in his 2022-23 season salary. That may have made the 26-year-old more willing to work with the team on friendlier terms for the back end.

In addition, when Tate next becomes a free agent in 2024 or (more likely) 2025, the Rockets will have full Bird rights and be able to re-sign him to a larger contract at that time. That could especially be the case if Houston is successful with spending plans related to its significant salary cap space in 2023, since the Rockets would not need to be as cautious with future contract terms if they’re going to be above the cap, regardless.

Yet, even with those qualifiers, the current rate for Tate’s services feels like a relative bargain in a market where Oklahoma City’s Lu Dort received a five-year, $87.5-million deal earlier this month.

In a new interview with Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Tate said he believes he’s worth more money, but there were sentimental factors that played a role in taking the contract with Houston that he ultimately did.

I think I’m worth more, but I like that. That keeps me hungry and motivated. It’s life-changing, but it’s not generation-changing. My whole thing is to keep working my ass off to get to that point. Going in there (negotiations), I had to think if I wanted to bet on myself more. Every step of the way, I’ve bet on myself. I could’ve waited, and who knows what the season brought and free agency, but I felt that Houston is my home, and I felt like this is something I wanted to be a part of and I’m excited about. You can’t put a price on happiness.

Beyond the importance of being happy, Tate is also correct regarding the risks of a deferred payday. It’s absolutely possible that an injury during the 2022-23 season could have limited Tate’s market a year from now, or that the Rockets and their increasingly crowded young frontcourt might make minutes (and thus, statistical production) harder to come by. That’s a factor that KJ Martin appears extremely aware of.

The bottom line is that Tate got what he refers to as life-changing money, and he’s happy with his situation in Houston. Heading into a season in which he could be in line for another starting role, Tate appears to be in the right frame of mind to take advantage of any opportunities.

In two seasons with the Rockets, Tate has averaged 11.6 points (50.1% FG, 31.0% on 3-pointers), 5.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 26.4 minutes.

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