Houston Rockets rookie Jalen Green worked out for only two teams prior to the 2021 NBA Draft — the Rockets and the Detroit Pistons, who possessed the first pick in the draft. The Pistons selected Cade Cunningham with the top pick, and then the Rockets went with Green. That worked out well for Green, who apparently isn’t the biggest fan of the city of Detroit. While recently discussing his NBA Draft process, Green compared Detroit to the NBA G League bubble in Orlando in terms of both having an overall lack of activities. Green played for the G League Ignite last season before declaring for the draft.
“I wanted to be the No. 1 pick, but as for the location, I didn’t want to be in Detroit,” Green said, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “I felt a lot more comfortable in Houston. It felt like a real homie environment. With Detroit, it felt like I was just going back to the G League bubble, and I just got out of the bubble. That’s pretty much what it was.
“In the [G League] bubble, I didn’t really have anything to do but just stay in the gym. I didn’t have any time to get away for myself. The only time I had to get away for myself was in my apartment. That’s what it felt like in Detroit. I wouldn’t be stepping outside in Detroit. There are not many things you can do in Detroit like that. You’re going to stay in the gym and then go back to your apartment.”
Green might feel differently about Detroit if the Pistons had selected him with the top overall pick instead of Cunningham, but since he’s in Houston he’s clearly comfortable throwing some shade in Detroit’s direction. After all, Green is obviously the type of player that is at his best when he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder.
“Every time I step on the floor, I always think that I have something to prove to whoever is in those stands,” Green said. “There are a lot of people who will hate on me, have their opinions about me whether I do good or bad. I’m just thinking about that when I step on the floor. I’m going to prove everybody wrong.”
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Given this mindset, it’s safe to say that Green will be driven to prove the Pistons wrong for passing over him in the draft. In fact, he’s already started. After dropping 23 points, five rebounds and two assists in his Summer League debut against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Green poured in 25 points, five rebounds and three assists against the Pistons in his second game. He also had something to say to Cunningham after hitting a 3-pointer over him on a play late in the fourth quarter.
Perhaps a nice new rivalry will develop between the top two picks in the ’21 Draft. After all, only one of them can win the Rookie of the Year Award for the upcoming season, and Green already has his eyes on it. “I need it,” Green said of the award. “I feel like I’m the best player in the class. I didn’t go No. 1, so I’m going to go get the Rookie of the Year.”
We’ll have to wait and see if Green is ultimately able to win that award, but after the way he played in Las Vegas, the Rockets have to feel pretty good about how they used the second pick in the draft.