Houston Rockets’ Christian Wood shines early after years of challenges

With Rockets star James Harden on the sideline, Christian Wood stepped up in a big way to carry the team in a win over the Sacramento Kings

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The Houston Rockets played Saturday’s game against the up-and-coming Sacramento Kings without their star player, 2018 MVP James Harden, who was out with a sprained ankle.

Despite that, the team managed to win the game by a healthy margin, 102-94. Much of the Rockets’ performance can be attributed to starting center Christian Wood, who scored 20 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked four shots at home, according to ESPN.

Through the first four games this season, Wood has averaged nearly 24 points and almost 11 rebounds. He signed a multi-year contract with the Rockets during the off-season. Yet, his arrival was overshadowed by Houston acquiring all-star talents John Wall and Demarcus Cousins.

Christian Wood #35 of the Houston Rockets puts up a shot against defender Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs during the second quarter of a game at the Toyota Center on December 17, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

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Wood is use to being overlooked. His road to this moment has been a rocky one.

As a starter at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, averaging 15.7 points, 10 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in his sophomore season, Wood declared for the NBA in 2015, according to CBS Sports. Projected to be a late first-round pick, the 6-foot-11 center waited for his name to be called. The 2015 class included future all-stars like Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Devin Booker, but Wood, 19 at the time, never heard his name called.

The sting of going undrafted was compounded by his then-girlfriend breaking up with him later that same night, as reported by The Ringer.

“I lost my girlfriend that night, too,” Wood revealed. “I dropped her off at the airport after the draft and never saw her again.”

Although he’d get a contract with the Philadelphia 76ers that season, he would eventually be waived that year. Over the next four years, Wood bounced around, looking for the right fit between the NBA, the NBA G-League and even the Chinese Basketball Association. Until 2019, he never played more than 17 games for any of the four NBA franchises he played for, according to ESPN.

Christian Wood #35 of the Houston Rockets dunks against the Portland Trail Blazers during the fourth quarter during the fourth quarter at Moda Center on December 26, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

According to the New York Post, it was actually being cut from his CBA team, the Fujian Sturgeons, that was Wood’s wake-up call.

“To get cut from a team in China because they tell me I wasn’t good enough — that really tested me,” Wood stated. “That was the breaking point.”

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In the 2019-2020 season, Wood made the Detroit Pistons’ roster and began to flourish. He averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds off the bench in 62 games, good enough to earn him fourth place in voting for the 2020 Sixth Man of the Year award, as reported by NBA.com.

Christian Wood #35 and James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets during the first quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center on December 26, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Although he didn’t bring home the trophy, Wood, 25, did earn himself a three-year, $41 million contract with Houston, his sixth team, in 2020.

Now, Wood says he feels like he’s on his way to becoming “one of the top players in the league.”

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