• Brian L. Barefield

Rockets Jae'Sean Tate makes impressive return against the Heat

Photo Credit/Houston Rockets

As rookie Jalen Green was wrapping up his pregame shootaround, the small crowd in attendance who showed up early for the Houston Rockets contest against the Miami Heat began to cheer when a familiar face that had not been seen in a while came walking out of the tunnel.

Rockets Forward Jae’Sean Tate made sure to return the love he was receiving as he waived to the crowd before being handed a basketball to begin his drills. It was the first time that Tate had been seen in a Rockets uniform in over eight days, having played his last game on December 23 against the Indiana Pacers.

Tate and forward K.J. Martin (who also returned on Friday) and guards D.J. Augustin and Garrison Mathews were placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocol due to COVID-19 related issues.

“It was relaxing at first, and then it got boring real fast,” said Tate about his time away from the court. “Those first couple days, use it for my body to recover. You start to feel how sore you really are. By day three, you’re just looking at TV all day, and you’re just ready to do what you love. They called me earlier today and said that they had changed the rules and would I be ready to suit up. I was like, ‘Heck, yeah.’”

Photo Credit/Houston Rockets

Rockets head coach Stephen Silas decided to bring Tate off the bench instead of placing him in his regular starting role to get reacclimated to being back on the court and test his conditioning.

“I was concerned, obviously, because I didn’t start him, but I didn’t know what we were going to get from him,” coach Silas said after the game.

Tate scored 22 points in the 25 minutes he was on the court in the 120-110 defeat to the Heat. He admitted to shaking some of the rust off due to not playing for so long. One thing that seemed to fire up the former All-Rookie First Team player was the on-the-court battle and trash-talking going on between him and Heat superstar Jimmy Butler.

“I love that he is a competitor,” Tate said. “He is a guy who has a love for the game and love for the competition. He works extremely hard. Any player that likes to compete, I am a fan of. It was a little bitter tonight, but at the end of the day, it was a great game.”

Tate won’t have a long time to recover as the Denver Nuggets will make their way to the Toyota Center on Saturday to take on the Rockets. The tip-off is at 7 p.m.

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