When looking at the schedule before the season started, the opening slate looked odd. Over the course of the last eight days, Houston has played two games. Maybe it would allow the Rockets to ease into the season. Or it might throw off their rhythm if they started out hot.
Unfortunately, it’s neither of those. Houston probably wishes that it wouldn’t play for a month, or at least until James Harden and a few others return from injury. Every team (except Golden State) deals with a stretch where a chunk of their roster is on the shelf, but the it’s usually during the dogs days on the NBA, in January and February.
Playing the Western Conference isn’t helping. The “easiest” game on paper that Houston has played was against the Lakers at Staples. Again, that was LeBron’s home debut as a Laker and probably the most rowdy crowd the Lakers will have until they make the playoffs (if they make the playoffs). The Pelicans are good and had continuity from last year’s surprise playoff run. The Clippers are a matchup nightmare for Houston. And Utah is pretty darn good too.
Tonight, the Rockets will have to contend with the Portland Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard is averaging 34 on 49-39-92 (that’s shooting percentage-three point percentage-free throw percentage) on the young season. That’s pretty darn good. Oh, and he’s getting to the line ten times per contest. According to the internet, that makes him a flopper. C.J. McCollum isn’t shooting as well overall, but he’s still popping 41% from downtown. Jusuf Nurkic is averaging a double-double and Zach Collins is holding it down off the bench when Nurkic needs a break.
I’m not sure what’s going on with the Jimmy Butler trade rumors. I think Minnesota’s preferred trade partner is Miami. The Heat have more pieces to give up and the Wolves are probably hesitant to send a star player to Houston. The trade could energize Houston and push them back to the heights they reached last season. Or it could fail spectacularly. The only thing I know is that if Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss are to be included in the deal, it cannot happen until Wednesday.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT