Josh Christopher ready to prove two-way value to Rockets
Houston Rockets' Josh Christopher (9) shoots against Oklahoma City Thunder's Jalen Williams (8) during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Saturday, July 9, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Rockets second-year guard Josh Christopher has been putting in the work this offseason –  both strengthening his body and improving his game – to prepare for the upcoming NBA season.

But as hard as Christopher has worked, the former first-round pick (24th overall) knows he will still have to fight for minutes in a youthful yet talented backcourt that features last year’s second overall pick, Jalen Green. He is good with that.

“I did it last,” Christopher said with a shrug of his shoulders. “The thing about being young and being in the NBA, you have to make them play you. I did it last year so I don’t mind doing it again.”

What’s different is that Christopher is determined to make even more of an impact this season, no matter what his role is. He has spent the offseason improving his strength while making his 6-foot-5 frame leaner.

Christopher has also stayed in the gym, putting up shots and working on becoming the two-way player Rockets general manager Rafael Stone envisioned the Arizona State product would be when he drafted him last summer.

The improvements were clear to see during the Rockets recent five-game run during the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas for rookies and young players. Christopher led the Rockets youngsters with 19.7 points (39.6% shooting from the field), 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 26.8 minutes in three games before he shut down for the final two games due to soreness in his right hip.

Christopher didn’t mind taking the court for his second Summer League stint. In fact, he said the decision to play again this summer was made prior to signing his contract last summer.

“You know how I am,” said Christopher, who averaged 7.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 18.0 minutes while appearing in 74 games last season as a rookie.  “You ask me to play basketball, I’m going to play basketball.”

His priorities for the Summer League were simple.

“Be very solid, be able to make plays and win ballgames, of course,” Christopher said. “And since I’m an experienced guy, be able to help the new guys as much as possible.”

Rockets coach Stephen Silas has made it a point to his entire team that improved defensive play will be a major emphasis this season. Christopher has taken the challenge to heart and that was obvious when he was on the floor in Vegas.

“It’s important being in the right spots, being able to help your defender that is on ball,” he said. “Being in the right places. I’m pretty solid but can always get better and off-ball just being able to make plays and make deflections, grab steals, being a distraction for other players.”

Christopher’s improved defensive play aligns with his overall goals of being the best possible offensive and defensive player he can be this season.

“That’s a key thing for me too, being able to be a two-way ballplayer and shoot that ball,” he said. “Trying to round out my game as well as possible.”