As if the Rockets needed more bad news in regards to their big men and their sketchy backs, Dwight Howard is now a game-time decision for tonight's contest against the Utah Jazz after experiencing back tightness during today's shoot-around.
Howard is a game-time decision. Had lower back tightness.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) January 7, 2016
This comes just two days after everyone's other favorite gimpy-backed 7-footer, Donatas Motiejunas, was deemed out until further notice with his own back problems.
Thankfully, neither injury is expected to be serious, though a somewhat cryptic tweet from ESPN's Calvin Watkins yesterday did spark a flicker of doubt on the true nature of D-mo's health and how long it will be until we see him again.
I've been told Donatas Motiejunas (sore back) isn't being shutdown indefinitely, yet, JBB said he won't play this week.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) January 6, 2016
Between Motiejunas, rookie Sam Dekker, who's been out almost all season, and now Howard, the Rockets could potentially have three players in street clothes tonight all with back issues.
In addition to the back triplets, the Rockets could also be without Ty Lawson again. Lawson missed Monday night's clash with the Jazz with a sprained ankle sustained against the San Antonio Spurs last weekend, but he was thought to be ready to go for tonight's rematch.
Unfortunately, Lawson also dipped early in today's shoot around with what's simply being described as "not feeling well," leaving his availability for tonight also in question.
Ty Lawson left shootaround, not feeling well. Still could play tonight.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) January 7, 2016
With K.J. McDaniels being reassigned to the D-League, the Rockets could be down to 9 dressed players for tonight's contest. You can expect to see Marcus Thornton return to the rotation in light of the depth concern.
While on the surface, more lineup shuffling appears like a death sentence for a team that's struggled with chemistry and continuity all season long, it is possible that this blip could instead have positive ramifications to the emotional makeup of the group.
Oftentimes a short break from any grind, a step back, can allow for both the type of external viewpoint and subsequent introspection not totally possible when one is waste deep in the mire. A quick hit of the chemistry reset button, even in the form of an unexpected short-term rotation shakeup, can sometimes be just enough deviation from the daily that it rattles something loose that wasn't present before.
Maybe it's grasping at straws, but Lawson reappeared seemingly refreshed and reinvigorated after his earlier short break from game action. Who's to say there won't be a continuation of that improvement or that it won't elicit the same jump in play for D-mo and Howard (if he does miss time) as it did for Lawson?
Lawson was playing better before sprained ankle in SA on Sat. In 6 games since previous suspension, making 53.8 % of shots, ave. 4.5a, 1 to.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) January 7, 2016
The best NBA outfits obviously strive for continuity in their day-to-day. Consistent work habits, practice, role, rotations- it all builds continuity, which in turn helps build chemistry, especially for the teams that are currently lacking in it. Any shuffling in the long-term is absolutely counterproductive.
But in the short term, with the Jazz also playing seriously short-handed (both Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert are expected to miss again tonight) maybe it's the perfect opportunity for Thornton to sizzle from the beyond the arc, and Montrezl Harrell's energy to spark the rest of the squad to step up their defense and effort, while a quick deviation from the norm pays dividends moving forward with some fresh perspective.
Ty Lawson will miss the next 3 games, including tonight's tilt against the Jazz, due to a suspension stemming from his July DUI arrest.
NBA suspends Ty Lawson for 3 games stemming from DUI arrest in July. pic.twitter.com/TqgxwJulUX— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 7, 2016