James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Josh Smith and Corey Brewer. Those are the players who haven't missed a single Houston Rockets game due to injury this season. It's been a rough one.
Harden has carried the Rockets on his back all season through a rotating cast of injuries, trades and D-League call-ups. As the Rockets prepare for the playoffs, the roster has finally settled, but the absence of two Rockets starters decidedly tip the "scales of attrition" against the Rockets.
The Dallas Mavericks face no major injuries. They've got nagging problems, but nothing substantial that changes the face of this series. Chandler Parsons' knee is the largest momentary concern for the Mavs.
Meanwhile, the Rockets...
The Houston Rockets Injury Report
Patrick Beverley is leading a bandwagon of optimism when it comes to his torn wrist ligament. Suffered in late March, Beverley underwent successful surgery to repair the ligament on March 31st. Beverley believes he can return to the Rockets during the playoffs and bring back his relentless brand of annoyance in a Western Conference packed with dangerous point guards.
Reports after Beverley's surgery say he needs to be in cast from between 10 weeks and four months. So these two dialogues clearly conflict and Rockets fans shouldn't be holding their breath.
To replace Beverley the Rockets have moved Jason Terry into the starting lineup. His 93 playoff games best any other Rocket for playoff experience. Only three Rockets have an NBA Championship to their name: Terry, Ariza and Brewer (2011 Mavs also).
Beverley's injury also puts Nick Johnson on the court. Johnson won't make meaningful contributions as much as he'll eat minutes, but he's going to have a few chances to make the NBA learn his name.
Beverley's loss will obviously be hardest felt on the defensive end. His absence will force Trevor Ariza to drop down and guard the West's best point guards: Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Mike Conley or Damien Lillard. Against the Mavericks it's unlikely Ariza will draw assignments on the shell of Rajon Rondo, more likely he'll be put on Monta Ellis.
Motiejunas went from a sore back to out for the season pretty quick.
It's difficult to say how a Howard-Motiejunas-Jones-Dorsey (or Capela) line would have worked. The four of them were never healthy and in-rotation simultaneously.
Instead of speculating on what that would have looked like...
- We know Jones will start at the four and be asked to play 30+ minutes a game in the playoffs.
- We know Dwight Howard's minutes restriction will disappear at some point. He's not going to come out of a close game for a minutes restriction. McHale and Howard respect their mutual hard-nosed mentalities too much for this to last long.
- We know Josh Smith will play 30+ minutes off the bench.
- We know this puts Joey Dorsey and potentially Clint Capela in the rotation. After Capela made four (out of 23) free throws he appears to have more upside than Dorsey does.
We know the Rockets are now an awful free throw shooting team. Dwight Howard is the best free throw shooting big man we have.
Want better analysis than this? Read this article from Number Fire on Motiejunas' role on both ends of the floor. The Lithuanian big man produced 4.7 win shares this season. That's third on the team surpassing Dwight Howard.
McDaniels has likely played his last game as a Houston Rocket. In 52 games with the Philadelphia 76ers he averaged 9.2 ppg and drew attention for his athleticism and nose for the basket. Then he was traded to the Houston Rockets where he hit a brick wall named Kevin McHale. Despite a never ending rash of Houston Rockets injuries McDaniels never left the bench.
In garbage time of the final regular season contest McDaniels sustained an injury to his wrist. Recent reports say McDaniels will miss the playoffs with a fractured wrist. There's also chatter on Twitter that McDaniels' mother says he torn a muscle in his elbow. Either way, he's not playing in the playoffs.
The Rockets reported is as a non-displaced right elbow fracture.
At this point McDaniels is best known for being the reverse Chandler Parsons. As a second round pick McDaniels refused offers from the 76ers for a cheap multi-year contract offering security and guaranteed money to an unproven rookie. Instead McDaniels signed a one-year contract that bet on himself. His gamble paid off. He's almost assured to get a worthwhile multi-year offer in free agency. However it also made him a trade chip and relegated him to the Houston Rockets bench.
Dwight Howard missed exactly half of the Rockets contests this season. First with a back injury and then with an edema in his knee.
Howard is still on a minutes restriction. The latest report says Howard will play over thirty minutes in playoff games.
As a side note... if you're not familiar with Kevin McHale's tenure in the NBA watch how he walks with a limp on the sidelines. That's the result of his years of playing on sprained ankles, starting playoff games despite injuries and refusing to come off the floor. You can't convince me that Dwight Howard and Kevin McHale won't look each other in the eyes and throw this minutes restriction out the window.
Does it really matter? Don't expect to see much of Big Papa in the playoffs. He fell out of favor after the acquisition of Corey Brewer and Josh Smith and a serious ankle sprain put him out of action for a number of weeks. He's barely seen the court since returning from the ankle injury.
The Dallas Mavericks Injury Report
Rockets fans want Parsons on the court. They want the opportunity to jeer at him, revel in any mistakes he makes and watch Trevor Ariza play lock down defense on him when given the chance.
Parsons missed the final six games of the season with a knee injury that hasn't shown immediate signs of improving. The Mavericks say he's going to play in Game 1 but it doesn't sound like he's at 100%.
The minutes Parsons can't play will fall to Richard Jefferson and Al-Farouq Aminu. At this point in Jefferson's career we're all scrambling to find the vestiges of his semi-high-flying past (at least semi next to Vince Carter). Aminu is a defensive specialist, a near-necessity when you're starting Chandler Parsons.
Devin Harris will play through turf toe in Game 1. He missed the last few games of the season with the injury, but received a recent injection and is poised to back up Rajon Rondo. What type of Rondo the Mavericks get in this series will determine how much we see from Harris, a one-time all-star.
If Harris can't go the backup minutes will fall to Mavericks talisman J.J. Barea and Raymond Felton.
Game one of the Rockets Mavericks series tips off at 8:30 p.m. (Central) on Saturday.