Rockets Notes: Green, Tate, Smith, Whitmore

Rockets coach Ime Udoka considered lineup changes during the All-Star break that might have taken away Jalen Green‘s starting spot, but his show of faith in the third-year guard is paying huge dividends.

As Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes, Green continued his scoring binge Saturday night, pouring in 41 points as Houston won its eighth straight game. The reigning Western Conference Player of the Week is averaging 27.8 PPG in March while shooting 51.4% from the field and 41.7% from three-point range, and the Rockets have moved back into the play-in race with a 10-1 record during the month.

“He’s on a hot streak, obviously,” Udoka said. “Just like people have slumps at times, people can go on runs like this. But the main thing is he’s stayed resilient and continued to be confident when things weren’t going great. And all it takes for a really good scorer is to see a few go through. Run off a game or two of hot shooting and it can kind of snowball like this. I’m proud of the way he fought through some adversity. It’s not easy with a newer team and some different demands from a coaching staff and doing different things to always stay the course and fight through it. And he’s done that. Great to see him come out on the other side.”

A little more than a month ago, there were doubts about Green’s long-term future in Houston. Feigen points out that he was scoring just 17.1 PPG midway through the season while connecting at 39.8% from the field and 32.3% beyond the arc. Udoka was frequently keeping Green on the bench for long stretches in the fourth quarter due to concerns about his shot selection and defensive effort. The No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft will be extension-eligible this offseason, so he’s picked a great time to play the best basketball of his career.

“He’s been the key to everything,” Fred VanVleet said. “Our confidence, our pace, our spacing, he’s guarding. When he’s on like that, that’s just another nuclear weapon you have out there that can go give you 30, 40 any time. It changes the way the defense is guarding, changes the defense, the matchups. He’s been huge for us. It’s a testament to him staying with it, working through what’s been an up-and-down year for him. He’s finding it.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • Saturday’s win was the 35th of the season for the Rockets, which triggered an automatic $500K bonus for Jae’Sean Tate, tweets Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Tate, who has been with the team longer than anyone on the roster, has a $7MM team option for next season and will be eligible for an extension this summer.
  • Jabari Smith could face further discipline from the league after being ejected for fighting with Utah guard Kris Dunn five seconds into the second quarter, according to an Associated Press story. Udoka notes that Smith and Dunn had an altercation in a January game that resulted in technical fouls for both players. “I think Dunn hit him with a shot, and then, they got wrapped up and threw a few punches,” Udoka said of Saturday’s skirmish. “Basically, nothing landed, but as soon as you throw a punch, you’re going to be ejected.”
  • Udoka said Cam Whitmore has resumed shooting as he works his way back from a sprained right knee, per Ben DuBose of Rockets Wire (Twitter link).
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