Alperen Sengun has quickly become one of the Houston Rockets' best players. He leads the Rockets in win shares per 48 minutes, box plus/minus, and is second on the team in per minute Raptor wins above replacement.
His per-minute excellence hasn’t been lost on the fan base, but it appears to have been lost on the coaching staff. Sengun is eighth on the team in total minutes and ninth in minutes per game. Sengun recently suffered a minor ankle injury and should be back within a few games.
At the turn of the new year, Sengun was interviewed by the Turkish magazine Socrates and dished on his transition to the NBA and his lack of playing time.
According to Sengun, Stephen Silas has been judicious with his minutes to protect him from injuries.
""At first, I think the coach was watching me a little. He knew my body wasn't used to this pace. He was protecting me in case I might get injured, that's what he said,” Sengun told Socrates. "
The urge to play more never left Sengun, but he did admit that the pace of the NBA season and game took a bit to get used to.
"“Of course, people want to play, I wanted to (play more), but sometimes you feel bad after the (game) when you get (a lot of playing) time ... Looking at the moment, over 30 games are behind, my body got used to this pace, I feel better.” "
Sengun expressed his awe at the pace of the NBA season. In Sengun’s MVP season in the Turkish league, he only averaged 28.1 minutes a game across their 30 game season. The demands of an NBA calendar have been a big adjustment for the rookie.
"“Of course, there are ups and downs, it is impossible not to get tired during the weeks with back-to-back (games). Sometimes it happens like this: You play away, you leave as soon as the (game) is over, you come home at 3 a.m., you have another (game) the next night. It's an amazing pace." Sengun added, "(The Rockets) played nine games in 15 days, we used to play nine games in nine weeks in Turkey, we did it in two weeks here. It's hard to get used to it right away.""
The Rockets appear determined to get Sengun’s body up to speed before they bump his minutes up. According to Sengun, assistant coach John Lucas is "a bit of a maniac" for all the conditioning he runs him through. However, Sengun would have it any other way.
As for the future, Sengun believes he and the Rockets both have what it takes to get to the top. According to Sengun, the Rockets rookie class is the foundation for a championship-caliber team.
""I think we will be champions in three or four years, hopefully, because we have great rookies, we all take time. Jalen, me, Garuba, Josh Christopher … I think we will make a very good team,” said Sengun. "
Sengun’s belief in the Rockets is as lofty as his belief in himself. Even as a rookie he wants to go down as a Rocket lifer and has aspirations to be the best player in the league.
" Personally, my goal is to be permanent. I always underline this. I want to be like Jokic, like special players. Just as I am constantly mentioning Jokic's name now, I would like young players from Turkey and even around the world to say my name and take me as an example in the future.""
Even if Sengun falls a little short of securing an MVP, like Jokic, I’m sure he’ll still be happy if he helps bring another championship to Houston.