Before Wednesday’s contest against the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel took a moment to praise Jalen Green. Vogel said from the way he shoots the ball from the perimeter to his explosiveness in the open court — he loves Green’s game. He believes Green is a star in the making.
Vogel’s analysis of Green during his pre-game press conference was the result of the first three regular-season meetings between the Lakers and the Rockets. Green averaged 18.6 points versus the Lakers, but Los Angeles held full control of the season series by leading 3-0.
But by the time the final buzzer sounded inside the Toyota Center following their season finale against the Rockets, Vogel’s admiration for Green had to reach an all-time high.
With a career-best 32-points, Green led the Rockets to a 139-130 overtime victory over the Lakers. He took over the game down the stretch for the Rockets by scoring a combined 19 points in the fourth quarter and overtime period.
For Green, he lived in the moment. His teammates trusted him to make plays down the stretch to carry the Rockets to victory. And he delivered. Green said the basket felt “super big” during the fourth quarter and overtime, as his teammates kept encouraging him to attack.
“He [Jalen Green] hasn’t shied away from much this season, whether it was good or bad. He has taken it head-on, and that is one of the great things about him. That is one of the things that will help him continue to get better and better.” — Coach Stephen Silas
Silas had a feeling going into the game that this could be a special night for Green. But there was more beyond just the four made triples, like the stepback three over LeBron James at the 7:26 mark during the first quarter, or scoring the first seven of the Rockets’ first points in overtime.
Silas was most pleased by Green’s defense and hustle that showed his continuous growth. It’s a testament to the work Green has put in since the start of the season.
From stiff defensive drills to not leaving the practice court until he makes 500 threes, Green has put in hours of training working alongside assistant coach John Lucas to become the all-around player he showcased against the Lakers. After all, Green does have the blueprint to what could turn into a legendary career.
“He has great shot-making ability. Everybody looks at his athletic ability, but his ability to make shots, he’s been doing this for quite a long time now, going back to high school.
“I feel like he’s just getting better and better, and the great thing about him being (in Houston) is they’re a super young group besides a few guys. It’s allowing him to make mistakes and learn on the fly, and that’s gonna benefit him.” — LeBron James
After scoring a career-best 32 points in a win over the Lakers, I asked LeBron James after the game on what he has seen from Jalen Green after playing him four times this season. #Rockets #Lakers pic.twitter.com/zfnt7h3t8U— Coty M. Davis (@CotyDavis_24) March 10, 2022
Green’s career performance against the Lakers was more than trying to prove that he was the best rookie in the draft class of 2021. It was more so a step towards his way to reaching his ultimate goal — to be the best player in the game.
When Green experienced the dog days of the rookie wall, he kept preaching how important it was to stay the course. Work hard. And to never lose confidence.
Nearly two months since a horrific outing against the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 21, the days of Green’s offensive woes that plagued his rookie campaign appear to be a thing of the past.
Since Houston’s return from the All-Star break, Green’s on-court production has reached new peaks. He is currently averaging 23.5 points over the previous six games while shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from behind the arc.
The future for Green and the Rockets is bright. And it’s a forthcoming Vogel predicted before Green sent his Lakers back to Los Angeles, contemplating a nine-point loss to a team with a 16-49 record.
“I want to be the best in this game. You have to beat the best to be the best. At the end of the day, I have to take those matchups. Whatever it takes to get to where I wanna get to. I have to stay confident, stay in the gym and keep working.” — Green