I now live at a fairly northerly latitude and the Winter Solstice turns out to be a significant event. If you live in Houston, or elsewhere closer to the equator, it’s not that big a deal, and you’re probably not all that keen to see more sunshine hours, honestly.
At 45 degrees north, I gloat a bit every day as the sun reclaims another minute or so. But that’s in the future, right now December 21st brings not just the shortest day but also the longest night of the year.
It certainly feels like a long dark time for the Rockets. The team seemed to be rounding into form, resembling, at times, the Rockets from last season. One night of an unfavorable schedule (second night of a road back-to-back), they were beating Miami (at home, off of three days rest). The offense was working, and while James Harden remains stellar, other players, like Eric Gordon, and Chris Paul, seemed to be emerging from a long hibernation. Perhaps the winter might be full of good cheer for Houston?
Then Chris Paul left the court clutching the back of his leg. We’ve since learned the Point God is down with yet another soft-tissue injury. Reports from the reliable Adrian Wojnarowski indicate the injury shouldn’t be more than two to three weeks’ duration.
This might be a tenebrous two weeks for the Rockets, as they’ve not won any games without Chris Paul. If there’s any weak, slanting, sunshine here, it’s that even a bad two weeks probably doesn’t do real lasting damage to the Rockets, barring further injuries.
A thing we may well get to see is whether or not Brandon Knight has any value, and can help carry the load at PG. So far it hasn’t been terribly encouraging for the Newly Non-Phantom Knight, but I’d say 39 sporadic minutes after nearly a two-year hiatus is close to worthless as a sample. If Knight gets plugged in and responds well, the Rockets could have a kind of high-budget Lou Williams (with maybe more passing).
The chance for Knight to reestablish himself, as a viable bench option, Chris Paul’s caddy, or even as a trade chip shouldn’t be denied him, as it seems unlikely that the Rockets have an attractive option in the trade market just now. (I suppose there’s...Austin Rivers who remains strangely available.)
Another problem that remains is just how badly big physical teams maul the Rockets on the boards some nights. Miami doesn’t win last night without a huge rebounding edge. I suppose the Rockets could choose to tell their small-ball team to just play harder. Another option, and hear me out, is to find another big guy to give Clint Capela and Nene some help, occasionally. Sounds crazy, but the Rockets found a playable wing in Danuel House in the G-League, it’s possible there’s a PF down there, too.
Anyhow, don’t get too discouraged in these dark days. We can hope this is the last of the bleak midwinter for the Rockets, in what has proven to be a discouraging and disappointing season thus far. I’ve seen signs of last year’s Rockets, and if that’s derailed for two or so weeks, it doesn’t mean it won’t return, like the sun.
A Brandon Knight in shining armor to the rescue?
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Mark Cuban for Lord of Misrule!