Rockets rookie Tari Eason off to impressive start
Houston Rockets forward Tari Eason (17) shoots during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the LA Clippers in Los Angeles, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

The young Rockets have certainly struggled during the early part of the season, but some of their young players are showing flashes of how promising the future could be.

Rookie forward Tari Eason is definitely giving fans a lot to be excited about.

The 17th overall pick in last summer’s NBA Draft has offered glimpses as to why many believe the former University of Cincinnati and LSU product could be the steal of the draft. The versatile forward has been the player the Rockets need off the bench, able to fill up a stat sheet in a hurry.

In a couple of recent outings, Eason scored a career-high 17 points versus the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 5th, knocking down 6 of 8 shots from the floor while going 2-for-2 from 3-point range in the loss. Then on Nov. 9th, he came off the bench to contribute 14 points, six rebounds, five assists, and five steals against the Toronto Raptors.

The 6-foot-8 Eason is averaging 8.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.5 steals while shooting nearly 43% from the field and 44% from 3-point land and logging 18.4 minutes a night.

“It’s been a pleasant surprise. I didn’t really know what to expect,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said of Eason. “He had a good summer league, he doesn’t need the ball to be successful and that’s always good for a rookie because you don’t get the ball very much.

“His rebounding has been really good, his pace getting up and down the court has been really good and he just makes plays defensively. To have a guy who does things on both ends of the floor is great.”

Eason is enjoying the start of his rookie season while also staying mindful that he still has a long way to go. Eason recently sat down with The Defender for an exclusive one-on-one interview.

Here is what he had to say about his rookie season to this point.

Defender: What was it like going into your first official NBA game this season?

Eason: It was just a super special experience, my first NBA game. The emotions kind of ran over me before the game. Obviously, it was something you dream about since you were a child. I dreamed about it as a child so for all of that to come to fruition for me to play in an NBA game was super dope for me. It would have been better if we won it but at the same time, a lifelong dream came true.

Defender: How different has the regular season been from the preseason and NBA Summer League games?

Eason: I don’t think it’s much different. I think everything I’ve done to this point, all of the work I’ve put in has prepared me for these moments so it hasn’t been too different, it’s just more that it’s official.

Defender: Can you talk about how have you adjusted to the NBA game and NBA lifestyle?

Eason: I think I’ve adjusted pretty well. I think with the way I play, how hard I play, my motor has given me the ability to find opportunity on the floor, especially being a rookie. I think my adjustment has been pretty well, obviously still learning things. The lifestyle, I haven’t played 82 games yet so I will have to get back to you on that. Other than that, I think my adjustment is going pretty well.

Defender: How do you feel you are fitting in with this team?

Eason: I think I fit really well with this team. Someone who is an energy piece. I can provide a lot of energy off the bench. I’m just a sparkplug for the second unit. As long as I can go in there and make an impact when I get into the game, I’m happy.”

Defender: How are you feeling about the buzz and excitement surrounding you after what you performed in summer league, preseason and to this point?

Eason: I let the people talk. I try not to get caught up in that sort of thing. That’s not something I try to do. I just play basketball. 

Defender: What’s your perfect scenario for how this season plays out for you and the Rockets? 

Eason: Get to the playoffs. That’s perfect case scenario, we get to the playoffs. Get a top six seed or something like that.”

Defender: What about your game do you feel will be an asset to this team?

Eason: I feel like I do a little bit of everything. I can rebound, I can defend, I can pass…really whatever the coach needs me to do. That’s a part of my game, my versatility.

Defender: What has been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make so far?

Eason: I think coming from college, you go from a situation where a lot of plays are ran for you to a situation where no plays are for you. In the beginning of college it was similar, even at LSU there were no plays ran for me at the beginning. So, it’s not much different. I’ve been kind of used to playing that role kind of my whole life. But going back to that is a bit of an adjustment.

Defender: How are you liking Houston?

Eason: I’m loving Houston. The city has accepted me and welcomed me with open arms. The people are great so I love it.

I've been with The Defender since August 2019. I'm a long-time sportswriter who has covered everything from college sports to the Texans and Rockets during my 16 years of living in the Houston market....