The Rockets haven’t looked sharp yet this season. Even in their lone victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, they had their fair share of ups and downs, and the win was by no means a complete victory. There’s been several culprits for this slow start, ranging from a defense that’s ranked 24th in the league, to a normally elite offense that’s ranked at just 12 right now, to a slew of new personnel in both the locker room and on the coaching staff.
But one of the elements that’s also contributing to their slow start is an incomplete lineup. The Rockets have been missing several players due to injury, and according to the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen, there’s been no real change in their status:
Rockets are traveling and off today so the situation has not changed. Nene was in uniform but did not play yesterday. Chriss, out with a sprained ankle, did not make the trip. https://t.co/VL6czhbyYl— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) October 22, 2018
The Rockets have been down two big men— one young, and one old— and that’s forced Mike D’Antoni into using P.J. Tucker, Carmelo Anthony, and Isaiah Hartenstein at center, to very mixed results. Hartenstein might not be quite ready yet and likely still needs some more seasoning despite our offseason hopes for him, and neither Melo nor Tucker are the full-time answer when Clint Capela sits. Getting one or both of Nene and Chriss back could really shore up Mike D’Antoni’s flexibility at the five.
The Rockets are also down guard Brandon Knight, who is still without a clear timetable for his return after knee surgery, and the Rockets sure could use another ball-handling guard in the mix. After a strong preseason, Michael Carter-Williams has been a borderline disaster through the first three games (he has a -9.6 offensive plus-minus right now!), and a healthy Knight can hopefully gobble up the 10-15 minutes per night MCW has been getting.
In addition, the Rockets are also down Chris Paul, who was suspended for two games after his dust-up with Rajon Rondo and will miss one more game yet for Houston. That’s four possible rotation players the Rockets are down at the moment, three of which were heavily involved in the offseason and training camp (Knight’s missed all of camp).
The Rockets have clearly looked off with their chemistry so far this year, and having so many key components of their offseason work already missing time is certainly not helping a team that is already struggling to incorporate many new pieces.
Houston is also down Zhou Qi, though he likely would’t be playing much currently anyway.
It’s true that the Rockets currently have bigger problems than back-up center and third-string guard, but when you’re trying to build chemistry, rotations, and defensive communication back to the point that it was last year, it’s beneficial to have all of your guys available.
CP3 will be back on Friday. We should have a better idea later this week of when the others will be back, which will hopefully help Houston snap out of this early-season malaise.