A conversation between Eddie House and his son, Phoenix Shadow Mountain point guard Jaelen House:
“We don’t play one-on-one,” Eddie says, looking at Jaelen. “We just play HORSE. He has to get his shot together.”
“He doesn’t want to play me because he’s afraid I’m going to beat him,” Jaelen says.
“No, my knee is messed up and I’m overweight,” Eddie says. “I can’t go out there and do it like I want to but I can shoot so we can play HORSE and he already knows what happened to him about three times this year.”
“We played like twice, Dad.”
“OK, what was the record?”
“I mean, you beat me,” Jaelen says, “but I want to play one-on-one.”
“Nah,” Eddie replies, getting in the last word. “Not going to happen.”
Eddie smiles and looks at his son. They’re sitting in an empty gym at Shadow Mountain, one man’s career over, the other just getting started. Eddie dominates the conversation. He always could talk, going back to his days at Arizona State when the words and 3-point shots came in volumes. Jaelen is quieter, deferential to his father.
But every once in awhile, Jaelen will get in a good-natured shot at his dad. Like recently, when the two visited Eddie’s father in Sacramento, Calif., and Jaelen watched VHS tapes of Eddie’s 11-year NBA career that encompassed nine different teams.
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“He was scoring a lot more than I thought he could,” Jaelen said. “He could kind of jump for being as little as he was. He was real good back in the day. His shot was there. His handle was there, too, but not like mine.”
Ah yes, that shot. Arizona State fans haven’t forgotten Eddie’s sweet shooting touch. He still holds school records for points, field goals and, belying his reputation, steals. He had perhaps the greatest game in school history, scoring 61 points in ASU’s 111-108 double-overtime victory over California on the road his senior season in 2000.
Eddie parlayed that success into a long NBA career, which included a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008. Jaelen was 7 years old then, and there’s a photo of Eddie, fallen to his knees on the court in disbelief and celebration, Jaelen running toward him, jumping in the air.
“I just remember we didn’t go home until like two o’clock in the morning,” Jaelen says.
“That’s because we never left the arena,” Eddie says. “We partied in the locker room.”
Jaelen lived a boy’s dream in those days, hanging out with players like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade. There were no lessons imparted – Eddie said Jaelen was too young to retain anything – other than the experience of soaking in basketball at the highest level.
“I just wanted him around that atmosphere,” Eddie said. “To be on that stage at that young of an age and to be around Hall of Famers all the time and knowing them, I don’t think that any moment in basketball is going to be too big for him. He just has to put in the preparation and work to take advantage of that moment.”
Now, it’s Jaelen’s turn. He’s just a wisp of a sophomore at 6-foot-1 and 150 pounds, but he’s averaging 21.4 points, 5.1 assists and 5.6 steals per game through Shadow Mountain’s game Wednesday against Phoenix Thunderbird. The talent, quickness and athletic ability are striking. It won’t be long before major colleges come calling.
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“He’s a better overall player than I was at his age,” Eddie said. “He’s head and shoulders above where I was at and that’s where it should be. He’s a better defender, a better playmaker and he has a better feel for the game. His instincts are off the chart. His jumper (Jaelen is shooting 31 percent from 3-point range) is not as wet as mine was, though.”
Jaelen’s shot will improve, Eddie said, as he grows into his body and gets stronger. For now, the father who was known for his offense continually tells his son to focus on defense. Trust your feet, Eddie will tell Jaelen. Trust your hips.
“I’ll ask him about it,” Jaelen says.
“Do you ask me or do I just tell you?” Eddie says.
“His offense is going to be there. I’m not worried about his offense,” Eddie added. “It’s his defense that’s going to take him to the next level. Everybody is out there working on their shot, working on scoring but nobody is focusing on defense. That’s why there’s not many two-way players in the league. So if you’re a two-way player at the point guard position, you’re really separating yourself.”
And about that belief that Eddie wasn’t a very good defensive player?
“I couldn’t have been in the league that long without playing some defense,” he said.
The body might have aged, but the pride is as strong as ever. In 20 years, Jaelen will be 35 and Eddie will be 58. Who will win in HORSE then?
“Me,” Jaelen says.
“But I’m going to be right there,” Eddie replies. “Believe that.”