LAS VEGAS — Rockets rookie Tari Eason wanted to make a solid first impression in front of his head coach Stephen Silas, who was sitting on the sides to watch Houston take on Orlando in the first game of the 2022 NBA summer league. Before teammates Jalen Green, Jae’Sean Tate, KJ Martin, Alperen Sengun, and more could get settled in their seats, Eason made them stand right back to their feet.
Twelve seconds into the game, Daishen Nix found Eason coming off a screen he had set for Jabari Smith Jr. Eason took one dribble and exploded towards the rim for a thunderous dunk over Emanuel Terry, giving Houston its first two points and bringing the crowd to its feet.
“Me and Jabari had talked before the game, and he asked me if I was going to dunk on someone, and I said, ‘Yeah, bro,'” Eason said postgame. “It just happened to be the first play of the game and my first real NBA bucket. That was special.”
The Rockets selected Easton at No. 17 overall in this year’s draft after he made First Team All-SEC and won SEC Sixth Man of the Year at LSU. His on-court tenacity is one of the things that stood out when the Rockets were scouting him prior to the June 23 draft, and it showed during Houston’s 91-77 loss (box score) to the summer Magic.
Rockets rookie Tari Eason talks about facing Magic rookie Paolo Banchero. The two competed against each other back in high school in Seattle
“He is a special talent. I’ve known him for a very long time now…I’m really proud of him.”#Rockets @TAR13ASON @Pp_doesit @TheRocketsWire pic.twitter.com/5WTVFWwh0G
— Houston Sports Insider (@BigSargeSportz) July 8, 2022
“He played with so much energy, he had no energy at the end,” said Rick Higgins, Houston’s summer league head coach in Las Vegas.
“He put so much into the early, that when we got late into the game it was tougher for him to maintain that same level,” Higgins surmised. “But that wasn’t from a lack of desire or want. He was putting everything he had into the game, and his coach didn’t take him out enough.”
Eason finished with a double-double (14 points, 13 rebounds), but he shot just 35.3% from the field and 22.2% on 3-pointers, which he wants to improve by Saturday’s game versus Oklahoma City (schedule).
“I have to knock down the corner three-ball when I am open and pick my spots wisely,” said Eason, who has already been working with Rockets assistant John Lucas on improving his shooting mechanics.
Playing the Magic was a bit of a reunion for Eason, who squared off with the No. 1 overall pick in Orlando’s Paolo Banchero. The two faced each other in 2020 in Washington’s high school state championship game.
“It’s great to play against Paolo,” Eason said. He is a special talent. I’ve known him for a very long time now. We were chirping back and forth during the game. It’s all love, though. I’m really proud of him.”
Tari Eason last night:
Showcased his obscene defensive versatility, slashing, and intriguing pull-up shooting. Hard not to get excited about his 2 way potential. Full highlights: pic.twitter.com/21WLCATxG7
— Itamar (@Itamar_17_10) July 8, 2022