Inactive on the court since the start of 2024, Houston Rockets forward Tari Eason is now out for the season with a left leg injury. Head coach Ime Udoka finally pulled the plug, and Eason will undergo surgery on his leg to remove a benign growth, an injury the head coach mentioned “he'd been dealing with for awhile.” This surgery will keep Eason out for four months, three months ahead of the conclusion of the regular season.

Eason had been an integral part of the Rockets‘ initial success, especially with them possibly making the playoffs or surely securing a slot in the play-in tournament. When he was available to play, Houston posted a respectable 12-10 record.

A huge blow

Houston Rockets forward Tari Eason (17) dribbles the ball during the third quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Toyota Center.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After a strong 22 games before January, Eason has yet to make an appearance on an NBA court due to his nagging leg injury. If he hasn't been available to play for over two months with no timetable of officially returning, it's safe to say his season was coming to an end.

Udoka was hopeful there would be positive news after the All-Star break. Unfortunately, Houston will have to play until the end of the season without their Swiss Army Knife. The Rockets desperately needed him for added depth. Without Eason, the Rockets have displayed gradual showings of deterioration, specifically on defense, attacking the glass, and three point shooting.

Tari Eason's impact 

Picking up his injury in the preseason, Eason's leg kept him from making his season debut until November 8th, when the Rockets played their seventh game. The former 17th overall pick had been on a relaxed minutes restriction throughout this month into December, and often received rest days during back-to-backs. He was a key reason behind the Rockets success on their overall defense.

In December, Eason played his best brand of basketball of his young career, averaging 11.4 points on 45.5% shooting, 8.3 rebounds, and two steals across 24.8 minutes. His three-point shooting steadily improved from his rookie season, moving from 34 to 36 percent from behind the arc. On defensive rating, his sophomore season was an improvement as well, notching a 103.1 compared to a 113.4 in his rookie campaign.

Eason's dominance this month sparked debates on whether he should be in the starting rotation. One particular stretch where Eason made a significant impact were his back to back games of double doubles against the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies, totaling 43 points and 28 rebounds on 18-of-32 shooting.

Eason posted an story updating his status on his Instagram profile, citing he “I'll be back.”

What this means for Rockets

Rockets fans will have to wait for a fully healthy Tari Eason next season. Much of the aspirations the Rockets and Udoka had this season have fallen short, including Eason's sophomore season. At 26-34 and six games back from play-in contention, it's unlikely that they will make any noise to reclaim that spot, especially with Eason out.

Maybe it is wise they accept a goal not made, focus on what's currently working, and ride with it down the stretch.