With ten games left to go in the regular season, Patrick Beverley went down with a serious knee injury that looked likely to knock him out for the season. An MRI confirmed the Rockets' fears: Beverley had torn his meniscus. After seeing Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook go down with the same injury in the last 12 months, Beverley fell victim to the same fate, but the result was different. Beverley avoided surgery, and rejoined the team before the playoffs.
In the playoffs, Beverley got knocked out of game one, and once again seemed likely to be relegated to the bench for the rest of the season, but improbably returned just three days later to go 41 minutes in game two. He would play all six games of the series, but did not look himself, playing uncharacteristically weak defense against Damian Lillard. Now, after the Rocket jettisoned their backup point guard Jeremy Lin without bringing in an experienced replacement, the question has to be asked: Should the Rockets worry about Beverley's knee?
We've seen Derrick Rose miss six months of this season with the injury, Russell Westbrook had complications in his knee that required a second surgery before the season, and now the Rockets head to training camp with Ish Smith, Isaiah Canaan, and Nick Johnson fighting for the backup job. Jeremy Lin was not a superstar, but you at least knew that he could step in and start if anything were to happen to Beverley, but the current trio backing up Beverley does not inspire much confidence.
With all the talk about the need for bench help in the front court, the Rockets have a gaping hole at the position that seems most likely to suffer a major injury. James Harden and Dwight Howard are excellent, but how many games is this team going to win if they have to start Ish Smith for a reasonable stretch of time? I can tell you it's going to be a rough stretch if it get's that far.
For the most part, the reaction to the Rockets' moves this summer has been overly dramatic. Trevor Ariza can step in and fill Chandler Parsons' minutes adequately, and the team still has two of the ten best players in the league in their starting lineup. If all goes according to plan, there is no reason why this team cannot take a step forward this season compared to their disappointing first round exit last year.
But with the changes this summer comes a much smaller margin for error. The Rockets seem confident in Patrick Beverley's knee, but recent history seems to indicate that they should prepare for the worst. At least to this point, they have avoided the issue entirely, and you have to hope that it does not come back to bite them in the ass come playoff time.