In his Las Vegas NBA Summer League debut on Sunday night, Houston Rockets rookie Jalen Green started comfortable and stayed comfortable. Everything seemed to come easily to the NBA G-League Ignite product, as he wowed the Las Vegas crowd with his self-creation and shotmaking en route to a convincing win over Cleveland.
Tuesday night had a different meaning for a confident Green, as Houston faced off against No. 1 overall draft pick Cade Cunningham and the Detroit Pistons. While the night ended with a Rockets win and another impressive stat line for the No. 2 overall pick, the path to Green’s numbers felt very different from the ease with which he racked them up two days earlier. The in-game adversity made elements of his performance on Tuesday even more impressive than his opening act.
Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher lead Rockets past Pistons
In the first quarter of Houston’s 111-91 thrashing of Detroit, the Pistons aggressively blitzed Green and brought a physical tone that he didn’t see in Sunday’s victory — but likely will see nightly during regular-season games in the association. The result was three early turnovers for the 6-foot-5 guard, as the Pistons jumped out to a quick lead.
“I got blitzed, and I had to adjust to that,” Green humbly told reporters after Tuesday’s game. “It was a different adjustment for me, but I still won that battle.”
It didn’t take long for Green to start winning the battle. The game seemed to slow down in real-time for the 19-year-old, as after his three first-quarter giveaways, he only turned the ball over once for the rest of the night. “I wasn’t very comfortable early, but I started to figure it out towards the end,” said Green, asked about reading the pick-and-roll.
When the game slowed down for Green, the Rockets sped up as a team. Houston ran away from Detroit in the second half, as the young Rocket scored 16 of his 25 points in the final two quarters.
Tuesday night felt like a microcosm of what a successful rookie season for Green may look like. There will be times where coverages surprise him, physical NBA guards give him fits, and the game feels like it’s being played with the remote on fast forward. As he did on Tuesday, the rookie will hopefully be able to adjust on the fly and come out on top, more often than not.
Green also wasn’t afraid to chirp back-and-forth with Cunningham, who was equally talkative after his buckets. The chip on the shoulder of the No. 2 pick is only growing after the first of what will likely be many battles between the top two draft picks in a loaded 2021 class.