Rockets working to improve Josh Christopher’s decision making on drives

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Josh Christopher, now entering his second season with the Houston Rockets, is very meticulous when it comes to the game of basketball.

He is constantly looking to get better and knows it will take some time to reach that elite level that he saw his basketball idol, the late Kobe Bryant, achieve as a critical piece to the Los Angeles Lakers’ success.

Earlier this month, Christopher chose to participate in the 2022 NBA summer league in Las Vegas to improve his game and help the Rockets’ young core of talent develop as they gear up for this upcoming season.

“My priorities for myself in summer league is to be very solid, be able to playmake, and win ballgames, of course,” Christopher said.

Christopher, 20, knows the process will take time and will not be easy. His summer league head coach and regular Rockets assistant, Rick Higgins, is aware that the No. 24 pick of the 2021 NBA draft is very talented — with a knack for getting into the paint with an explosive first step.

What he would like to see Christopher improve on is passing out of the paint, and finding open shooters when defenders collapse on him.

“Josh clearly has a great strength for being able to get the ball in the paint,” Higgins said at summer league in Las Vegas. “Josh’s next level of growth will be his decision-making when he does so. The ratio of good decisions to bad decisions needs to get better. The ability to get in the paint is always going to be his strength. As long as he stays in that mentality to play in the paint, to play for others, he’ll be way better.”

“It’s not going to be for Josh, how many shots I can get,” Higgins said. “It’s going to be which shots are better for the Rockets. I’ve been trying to tell him that for a year now. He’s getting better.”

One obvious takeaway from when he first stepped onto the court this summer was that Christopher is working on a particular aspect of his game that he wants to get better at. It’s finishing around the rim.

Of the 48 shots he attempted in Las Vegas, 39 were taken inside the paint, and 16 were made baskets.

All his work paid off in Monday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs. Christopher had a solid fourth quarter, hitting 5-of-8 attempted shots in the paint (62.5%) in the Rockets’ 97-84 victory.

The former Arizona State Sun Devil knows that for his team to be successful in the future, he will have to become a better playmaker, and he says he is willing to do whatever it takes to improve the organization.

“It’s a process, just something we’re going to have to learn, get better at,” Christopher said when asked about balancing his aggressiveness and court awareness. “I think it comes with experience.”

“I think there is an expectation for me being a second-year player, but still young, 20 years old, played 15 games in college, went to a public school,” Christopher added. “All my life, I’ve been able to play ball freely, to dive into the deep end. Now, in the NBA, I get to pull back.”

On Wednesday, the Rockets decided it was best for Christopher to sit out the remaining summer league games, as he is dealing with right hip soreness. After sitting out practice, Christopher told reporters that he first felt some discomfort during the game against Oklahoma City on Saturday. It bothered him in Monday’s game versus San Antonio.

In three summer games, Christopher averaged 19.7 points (39.6% FG), 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.7 blocks in 26.8 minutes. Between the low field-goal percentage and having 2.3 turnovers to 3.0 assists, it’s clear where the Rockets and Christopher would like to see improvement and growth in the NBA’s upcoming 2022-23 season, and it likely starts with knowing when to shoot and when to pass in the paint.

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