On a per-minute basis, second-year forward Tari Eason is arguably the most impactful player for the 2023-24 Houston Rockets. Head coach Ime Udoka has even referred to him having similar characteristics to a “young Kawhi Leonard,” in terms of playing style.
The problem, of course, is that Eason hasn’t been available to play in nearly as many minutes as the Rockets would like. He’s missed more than half of Houston’s regular season to date with issues tracing back to a stress reaction suffered this preseason in his left lower leg.
But after giving him over a month to rest, the Rockets are ramping Eason up to play, and a return in the near future seems doable.
At Thursday’s team practice, as relayed by Adam Spolane of SportsRadio 610, Udoka said Eason has begun playing 1-on-1 and 2-on-2, and he could return to game action for the Rockets next week.
Tari Eason has started playing 1-on-1 and 2-on-2. Ime Udoka said he could return to game action next week
— Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane) February 1, 2024
Eason, who hasn’t played since Jan. 1, is averaging 9.8 points (46.6% FG, 36.0% on 3-pointers), 7.0 rebounds, and 1.4 steals in 21.8 minutes per game this season. He’s already among Houston’s best and most versatile defenders — and if scaled up to starter’s minutes, that could make him an extremely impactful player.
The question is whether scaling up is doable, medically, at least for this season. Starting next week, we could have some answers.