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Houston Rockets vs. Phoenix Suns game preview: Just stay healthy, please

There's only one priority for the Rockets' fourth preseason game.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

James Harden won't play tonight. Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones and Montrezl Harrell are all nursing injuries. Ty Lawson left practice yesterday after getting hit in the back. Donatas Motiejunas is still recovering from back surgery.

This is the situation the Rockets find themselves in as they head to the Valley of the Sun to take on... the Suns. The guys in uniform will be pressed into more minutes than anyone would like by virtue of a lack of bodies.

Good for Clint Capela, Sam Dekker and K.J. McDaniels, all of whom the Rockets need to get more on-court reps as they continually adjust to the NBA. Good for Kevin McHale and Daryl Morey, who get more chances to evaluate Joshua Smith, Chris Walker, Will Cummings, Denzel Livingston and Jeremy Tyler, all battling for the 15th roster spot or chances to catch someone's eye on another team. Good for those five guys, too.

Bad for the Rockets. The team dealt with injuries all last preseason, too. The preseason is important for three things:

  1. Getting players used to NBA basketball again/for the first time
  2. Evaluating young/new/unsigned players to fell out a rotation
  3. Building a comfort level among the players

The first priority is a problem. Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard didn't come close to playing full seasons last year, and they've been absent for too many preseason games and practices for my liking. Montrezl Harrell's thigh bruise is theoretically no big deal, but it's basically assured him of starting the year in the D-League since he hasn't seen much run.

Outside of Harrell, this preseason has been great for No. 2. Who would have thought we'd have such a clear picture of what kind of ballplayer Joshua Smith is? He's huge, has solid touch around the basket and a feel for the game. He might get the Rockets' 15th roster spot. He won't get playing time in Houston this year.

No. 3 is the biggest concern. Ty Lawson hasn't played with Jones at all and has played for only a handful of minutes with Harden and Howard. He and Ariza can develop a nice chemistry I guess? Don't be surprised if the Rockets look clunky out of the gate in the regular season. They're going to need time to jell. Again.

Maybe we should trot out Cummings, Livingston, Tyler, Walker and Smith for 48 minutes. Jeremy Tyler can get some wing experience, I guess.

The game is at 9 p.m. CT on Root Sports SW. You can also watch it on NBA League Pass.

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