As the Houston Rockets come out of the All-Star break and down the home stretch of the season, they are ready to roll with a fully healthy lineup for the first time in a while.
Forward Trevor Ariza, who has missed the last 9 games with a hamstring strain, has been practicing with no restrictions for a while now and is expected to return the lineup Friday night when the Rockets take on the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In fact, the Rockets have no one on the injury report at all right now, which is a pleasant sight considering the team has dealt with injuries at various points this season to Chris Paul, James Harden, Clint Capela, Luc Mbah a Moute and Ariza.
As expected, Trevor Ariza returning to Rockets practice today. He's been working out full speed for at least a week. Rockets have no injuries to report.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) February 21, 2018
What remains to be seen, however, is that now that the team is fully healthy, how exactly does Houston’s wealth of players fit into head coach Mike D’Antoni’s notoriously short rotation. In addition to getting Ariza back, the Rockets are also trying to incorporate new acquisitions Joe Johnson and Brandan Wright as well as continue to find a few minutes for microwave man Gerald Green.
Ryan Anderson, who’s been moved recently to the second unit, should still likely come off the bench moving forward, while one of either P.J. Tucker or Mbah a Moute, who have both been starting since Ariza went down, will also move to the bench (probably Tucker, with Mbah a Moute continuing to start).
It’s a good problem to have, however, as the Rockets now have the depth and versatility to play matchups with any team in the league. And though it’s been frustrating at times this year to have so many guys out with injury, the Rockets have mostly played it smart and cautious (with Ariza and Paul’s injuries in particular), and it seems to have paid off, as the good guys head into the season’s final 25 games 100 percent healthy and ready to fight it out with the Golden State Warriors for the West’s number-one seed.
And with so much firepower now on board, the Rockets should be able to keep everyone healthy and rested heading into the postseason even while still competing for that top seed.
It’s going to be a fun home stretch. Welcome back, Rockets basketball.