Rockets rookies Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason learning to adapt quickly

HOUSTON — Most NBA veterans will tell you they make mistakes throughout a game, no matter how long they have been playing.

They will also explain how they do not let missteps from one game carry over into the next, given a brutal NBA schedule filled with back-to-back games in multiple cities or perhaps with one rest day. Harping on gaffes or inefficient play could cause some players to slip into a slump leading to DNP-CDs (did not play, coaches decision).

Removing bad games from their memories is what rookie forwards Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason have had to learn very quickly. Both played an NCAA men’s basketball schedule last year that gave them time between games to focus on any troublesome areas, as they played only twice per week. Fast-forward to this year, and they’re lucky to have 24 hours to recover from a poor performance.

Smith and Eason shot a combined 5-for-23 (21.7%) from the field and finished with 16 points in an ugly 99-91 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday night. At times, they looked uncomfortable on the court and could never seem to find any rhythm.

“It is teaching, I am not being critical at all,” Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said regarding how he helps the rookies turn the page and prepare for the next game. “Turning the page, learning from the night before and helping them get ready for a big-time challenge ahead of us, you can’t help but be ready for tomorrow’s game.”

Trying to erase a lousy game from your memory is not easy to do when your next opponent is the 2021-22 NBA champions Golden State Warriors, led by a group of veterans in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. That trio can cause some very sleepless nights for rookies who have never had to play against them.

Yet, as Silas alluded to, young players must learn to put the previous game behind them and focus on the task.

“I kind of like it better that way,” Smith said when asked about playing an NBA schedule with games played in a short amount of time. “You don’t have to sit on it [bad games] for those few days, but at the same time you have to play the game, watch the film, and throw it away. It is not a lot of time to worry about the past, you have to move on.”

Removing the previous outing from their memories is exactly what Smith and Eason did in the 127-120 loss to the Warriors. Each player looked more comfortable on the court, finding their spots to help the Rockets stay competitive. Both players finished with career-highs in points as Smith scored 22 points, and Eason ended the game with 19 points. After a terrible shooting night against the Pacers, the rookies combined to shoot 53% (16-of-30) from the field.

Although the Rockets did not win, Silas was happy to see his first-round draft picks put the last game behind them and compete against the defending NBA champions.

“Flushing that last game and having the mental fortitude to come out and play well tonight,” Silas said of the rookies’ showings.

Houston resumes its 2022-23 schedule on Friday as they take on the Atlanta Hawks at Toyota Center. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. Central.

Related

Kevin Porter Jr. launches Sukuta brand to enhance connection with Rockets fans

Kevin Porter Jr. returns from back injury with best game of season for Rockets

List

Takeaways: Rockets rookies Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason set career highs in close loss to Warriors

Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire