James Harden is sick, the Rockets say. Trevor Ariza has a death in the family. There’s a good chance neither will play against the Phoenix Suns Sunday night, the first game either of them will have missed this season.
Maybe Harden is as sick as the Rockets say he is. After playing his worst ball of the season ever since re-injuring his wrist — and after Draymond Green punched that wrist Friday night — the timing and vagueness of the MVP candidate’s illness is curious.
Officially James Harden has an 'acute viral syndrome."— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) April 2, 2017
The Suns are trying to be one of the worst teams in a league for draft reasons, and they’ve been so bad that Devin Booker scored 70 points in a game and the team still lost (the second time that’s ever been done, after David Thompson in 1978 dropped 73 in an L). The Rockets will be the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
Ryan Anderson is already out with an ankle injury. Ariza isn’t with the team, and Mike D’Antoni has declared Sam Dekker and Troy Williams as his two starters at forward. Isaiah Taylor is also with the team, and figures to get minutes. We may see some Kyle Wiltjer.
All this, and Harden is only considered “doubtful” tonight. If he plays, he and D’Antoni will have no excuse other than to admit the engine of the team is being worked to exhaustion in pursuit of individual glory. The Rockets need rest, Harden most of all. I’m glad Ariza isn’t playing — although sad about the reason — and will be furious if Harden is in the lineup tonight.
The Rockets need rest. The rest of the league has been biding their time to make sure the superstars are ready for the playoffs. Up until this moment, the Rockets have not. Hopefully tonight is the start of something, and not just a blip on the radar.