Though prized rookie Jalen Green wanted the prestige of being the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2021, it seems he did not want the location.
In a new interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the No. 2 selection by the Rockets explained his preference for Houston as a city over Detroit — which selected Cade Cunningham at the draft’s top spot.
After working out with both franchises in each of their respective locations prior to the draft, here’s what the 19-year-old told Haynes:
I wanted to be the No. 1 pick, but as for the location, I didn’t want to be in Detroit. 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.
By population, Detroit ranks as America’s No. 27 city in the latest U.S. Census figures, whereas Houston is much larger at No. 4 in the country. Michigan also has much harsher winter seasons, which is when the NBA is always in full swing, relative to the Texas Gulf Coast.
In three summer league games last week, which included an impressive win over Cunningham and the Pistons, Green averaged 20.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in just 24.1 minutes and produced shooting percentages of 51.4% overall, 52.6% on 3-pointers, and 92.9% on free throws.
That Rockets-Pistons game was unusually intense for summer league, and Green’s latest comments may add further fuel to the fire when the two teams meet again in the 2021-22 regular season. Though the franchises are in different conferences, their new star guards have competed for top honors going back to their days in the same high school class, and it appears that both are ready to keep that battle going in the NBA.