In his rookie season, Josh Christopher tells Rockets Wire’s Brian Barefield: “When work pays off, it makes me want to do more. I am addicted to getting better.”
PHOENIX — As I waited near the baseline at Footprint Center for Rockets rookie Josh Christopher to finish his post-practice shooting session, one thing I quickly noticed was that I would be waiting a long time.
The No. 24 overall pick from the first round of the 2021 NBA draft was going through a rigorous spot-to-spot workout with assistant coach Barbara Turner, who constantly shouted out different game-type scenarios every time he moved to a different location on the court.
Once he finished all the drills, I headed over to the sideline to speak with Christopher. I thought the 6-foot-5 guard was finished for the day, especially since he had a game to play that night. Before I could take one step, I heard Houston’s rookie scream out, “Let’s do it again!”
That is not unusual for anyone who has met the young shooting guard out of Arizona State University, since he has had this type of work ethic dating back to his middle school days in California.
“Josh is one of those guys you have to run off the court sometimes, or he would never leave,” said Turner, who had a similar mindset during her WNBA playing days. “We constantly have conversations about him just working through the process, and being ready when his number is called.”
Christopher said he has figured out early in his young NBA career that hard work and dedication is the key to success. He told me:
As for me, being able to play and earn my spot and earn my minutes in the rotation, just to stay loyal to the grind as I have always been, and to be able to see improvement. I am all about results. You can’t get results if you are not putting the work in. When your work pays off, it makes me want to do more honestly. I am addicted to getting better. I just have to keep working.
In 50 games so far, Christopher is averaging 7.4 points (45.2% FG, 32.2% on 3-pointers), 2.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 16.5 minutes, and he also brings a much-needed spark and intensity to the team on defense.
One may wonder where Christopher’s positive attitude comes from, and how he can handle adversity at such a young age. It starts at home with his father, Laron Christopher, who has always taught Josh to keep his head up and push through the tough times.
“My son has always been one of those people who thrive through adversity,” the elder Christopher said after Houston’s last-second loss at Phoenix. It was an impressive showing for the young Rockets, since the Suns own by far the NBA’s best record. “He knows that tough times don’t last, so he just works harder and harder when things seem difficult.”
Christopher, 20, has had his fair share of ups and downs this season. He was sent down to the team’s G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, to work on being a better ball handler and facilitator since the Rockets planned on using him at the point guard position on the second unit. He excelled there and returned to the team, ready to handle everything his head coach Stephen Silas put on him.
As his minutes grew, his coaches and teammates could see how hard he had worked, including getting extra shots after games in which he shot poorly. In early February, he scored a career-high 23 points in a loss at San Antonio. Still, adversity struck again when Houston traded with Boston to bring in veteran point guard Dennis Schröder. Christopher’s playing time decreased over the next two games, leading to a combined 21 minutes in those contests and his first scoreless outing in 10 games.
Yet, Christopher is not letting that deter him from the ultimate goal of helping the Rockets (15-43) improve and put together some victories over the next 24 games to end their 2021-22 regular season.
“I am a natural two guard, like I have said before,” Christopher said in Phoenix. “Having a player like Schröder here will allow me to be more versatile. So. I can play the one or the two, allowing me to be all over the floor. Everything has slowed down for me. I have improved my jump shooting, and my confidence is higher. I think I have gotten better as an NBA ballplayer, in general.”
Houston has a demanding schedule following the All-Star break, as six out of the next seven opponents they face are currently in playoff contention. The lone exception is Friday night in Orlando, which is the first game for Christopher and the Rockets after the All-Star hiatus.
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