Why these Houston Rockets Summer League hot takes need to stop!

Let's not rush to judgement. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

Every year, in every sport, there's an offseason. Every year, in every sport, there's some sort of rookie draft. And every year, there are some superlatives placed on said rookies to one end or the other. They're either proclaimed to be a future Hall of Famer, or they're the next biggest bust. Fans overreact. Haters do too. But when the media does it, that sends things into overdrive? Why? Because too many of you will take the opinion of a media member and pass it along as an unquestionable fact. Once that gets cycled enough times, people stop asking questions and assume it's all real because they've heard it too many times from too many places. This is far too common in sports.

Here we are in the midst of the NBA's Summer League (the annual showcase of rookies and young players post-draft) and it's happening again! The Rockets' rookies are getting it from different sides. Most specifically Jabari Smith Jr and Tari Eason. The numbers three and seventeen overall picks respectively in this past draft have garnered the most talk on the team this year. While the talk about Eason has been overly positive, most of the talk about Smith Jr hasn't. The extremes have gone from Eason being the next great two-way player, to Smith Jr being an average role player that got over drafted.

Could two things be true. Absolutely. Are these two extremes true? Hell naw! Eason is a really good player. He could end up being the steal of this draft. Smith Jr isn't nearly as bad as those opinions would have you think. They've both had their moments to shine and not look so good. Eason has had more consistent performances (a double-double in all three games so far), but Smith Jr has shined as well. Smith Jr has shown the IQ on the defensive end that made him a threat to be taken number one overall. His offensive repertoire has been on display, but hasn't fully been put out there for all to see. Eason has shown his hustle and all-around ability. His scrappy, yet athletic style will fit right in on this team. Both guys have the ability to contribute on the court, and be a presence on both ends.

The effusive praise and overwhelming criticism have got to stop. These guys are playing against players who may not even make the G League. Sure, there are fellow rookies out there, but most of the Summer League rosters are camp bodies (players brought in to fill preseason rosters and burn reps). Giving a gold jacket to a preseason Hall of Famer is a saying in the NFL. One can look very good playing against lower-level competition. The key is to observe a player's skill set and see how it can translate to minutes in the rotation when playing alongside and against much better competition. I have no doubt both of these guys will contribute to the Rockets' success the next few years. So will Josh Christopher, who's been a star in the Summer League for the Rockets. We have to give these kids a chance. Too many of us are conditioned to the microwave dinner and have lost sight of the home-cooked meal. That home-cooked meal is full of love and ingredients you know where they all came from for the most part. Those microwave meals are loaded with fats and all kinds of bad stuff for you. One gives you instant fulfillment, while the other takes your gratification on a journey before the payoff. Not everything comes in the stroke of a few keys on your phone. Some things have to be built by hand.

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The Coogs play Miami on Friday night. Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images.

Number one seed University of Houston is favored by 7.5 points over No. 5 Miami, and No. 2 University of Texas is favored by 4 over No. 3 Xavier Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals in Kansas City.

Talk about opening acts. If both UH and UT win, they’ll meet Sunday in a good ol’ WWE-style Texas death match for a berth in the Final Four at NRG Stadium in Houston. Thank you, Mr. Schedule Maker.

How much do you think Cougar fans would love for UH to get their hands on the Longhorns with so much at stake?

For one example, let’s go back to the future, Oct. 21, 2023, when Big 12 rivals UH and UT meet in football at TDECU Stadium on the Houston campus. The game already is a lock sellout with tickets in the upper deck commanding $141 per ticket on the secondary market. It will be UH’s first year in the big boy Big 12 and UT’s last go-around before heading to the SEC.

One last opportunity for lasting bragging rights.

That’s for a UH football game. At home. Where the Cougars typically have trouble packing half the house. For example, the Cougars will be hosting the Sam Houston Bearkats at TDECU Stadium a month earlier. Tickets for that game, the same exact seat going for $141 against UT, can be had right now … $17.

Yeah, there’s something special about UH getting the opportunity to face UT. In anything. Anywhere. And it’s been a long time since the two teams, once co-members of the Southwest Conference together, have met on the basketball court. A full decade, in fact. The last time they played was March 20, 2013 with the Cougars prevailing 73-72 in something called the College Basketball Invitational. The UH coach was James Dickey. UT was coached by Rick Barnes. Joe Young led the Cougars with 18 points. The Horns’ leading scorer was Julien Lewis with 28. UH finished that season with a 20-13 record. UT limped home at 16-18.

That was then, this is now. The UH-Miami game will air at 6:10 p.m. Friday on CBS with UH grad Jim Nantz calling the play-by-play. The game will alsO stream on Hulu +++. ESPN’s BPI (basketball power index) gives the Cougars a 90 percent chance of winning. We’ll take it.

The UT-Xavier game will follow at 8:45 p.m. on CBS. The Horns have a 70 percent chance of beating the Musketeers. If both chalks come through, they’ll meet Sunday afternoon with the game on CBS.

The Cougars have made six Final Four appearances: 1967, 1968, 1982, 1983, 1984, 2021. The Horns have made three Final Fours, the last time two decades ago.

Here’s the only sure bet if UH and UT meet Sunday - get to your sports bar early if you want a seat. This could be memorable.

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