After suffering a hamstring injury back in December in a loss to the Miami Heat, Chris Paul is set to make his return to the Houston Rockets next week, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
Rockets guard Chris Paul out tonight vs. Raptors, D'Antoni said, but likely to return on Sunday.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) January 25, 2019
With a record of 11-5 in CP3’s absence, the Rockets have maintained to stay afloat thanks to the heroic efforts from James Harden.
Over the past month and a half, Harden has been nothing short but sensational for the Rockets. He has scored 30 or more points in 21 consecutive games. And after recording a career-high 61 points against the New York Knicks, Harden is now averaging 45.3 points per game in the month of January, 36.3 points for the season. With the year more than halfway over, Harden has to be the favorite to win league MVP honors.
Sure, the Rockets are nowhere near as good as they were this time last season, but Russell Westbrook’s 2017 award helped changed the narrative of what it meant to be named Most Valuable Player. 47 wins were enough for Russ because he did something not done since Oscar Robertson. The Rockets are on pace for 47 wins this year, and James Harden’s doing something no one’s done since Wilt Chamberlain.
Whether win or lose, it has been an honor to watch Harden go on a historic scoring spree. So much so, Harden’s incredible run is quickly becoming one of my favorite moments in Rockets history.
However, as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and the same can be said about Harden’s current streak. With Paul returning to the lineup as early as next week, will Harden’s historic run come to an end sooner rather than later?
First and foremost, this question is not posed to ask whether Harden and Paul can co-exist together, nor questioning Harden’s ability to score next to CP3. If anything, Harden’s scoring will become more efficient and dangerous playing alongside one of the league’s best point guards.
Harden’s historic run began with a 50 point triple-double against the Los Angeles Lakers, in a game where CP3 scored 14 points and nine assists in the win. Four nights later, the reigning MVP recorded 47 points in a 102-97 victory over the Utah Jazz, while Paul recorded 11 points and nine assists during the game.
So there is evidence that Harden can still put up these numbers playing next to Paul. However, most of Harden’s legendary performances come in the absence of CP3.
Remember his 60-point triple-double win over the Orlando Magic last season? Harden’s legendary performance came during a one-game absence from Paul, who was out due to a sore right groin. Most recently, Harden’s epic 44-point triple-double to lead the Rockets to a one-point victory over the Warriors on January 3 also came during a stretch where his backcourt mate was sideline due to injury.
Without CP3 on the floor, Harden takes his game to another level because he has to. Harden’s responsibility simply increases when Paul is unavailable to play.
In the 16 games Paul has missed, Harden is averaging a usage rate of 44.2 percent, according to NBA.com Advanced Stats. However, prior to CP3’s injury, Harden usage rate dropped nearly 10 percent at 36.2 USG% per game.
With Chris Paul returning to the lineup soon, the Rockets will have an additional player who can score and help orchestrate their offense moving forward. However, most importantly, Paul’s return means there will be someone who can take the offensive load off the shoulders of James Harden, though Clint Capela being out means the Rockets are still going to need as many points as possible from The Beard.
And although this will be great as the Rockets look to make a push toward the playoffs, the end is likely near for Harden’s historic run in the midst of the Point-God’s return. And that might not be such a bad thing if we want the MVBeard fresh enough for a deep playoff run.