There’s been some rumors this season that the Houston Rockets have been considering some “load management” for both James Harden and Russell Westbrook, especially after Kawhi Leonard looked like the best player in the league during the Toronto Raptor’s playoff run after he played in just 60 regular season games.
But according to a recent report by NBC Sports, no decision has yet been made on what to do with Houston’s two stars.
“Last month, Houston GM Daryl Morey made headlines when he responded to a question about load management on “The Dan Patrick Show,” saying the team will have “a very put together plan by our staff throughout the season to have our guys peak in April.” But sources told NBC Sports that no decision has been made to rest James Harden and Russell Westbrook entire games. Neither Westbrook or Harden have gone that route before, but it must be noted that Harden will enter his 30s, joining the 31-year-old Westbrook, later this month.”
The initial statement from Morey suggesting some rest for his studs was of particular note for the Rockets, because head coach Mike D’Antoni has been notorious in years past for not resting his main players, and The Beard is a well-known NBA ironman that plays as much as possible. The guy has made it known that just wants to hoop, and it’s maybe come at his detriment in playoffs, where he’s seemingly run out of gas on more than one occasion (2015 and 2017 elimination games standout in my memory as times Harden looked tired).
Contrary to popular belief (he just shoots threes!), Harden plays a very physical style of ball, leading the league in drives to the basket last season. That repeated pounding takes a toll, and the play often gets even more physical in the postseason, making it imperative that Harden is peaking come playoff time.
As for Westbrook, he’s played in 314 out of a possible 328 games over the past four seasons, which is actually one more than Harden’s 313, so you know Russ just wants to be out there too. He also plays a physical style, getting to bucket as much as possible.
It’s going to be hard to keep either guy from playing ball, but with both players hitting the backside of their physical primes, the team may have to just step in and save all three of these guys (including D’Antoni) from themselves.
Going the Kawhi route and missing a quarter of the season just isn’t going to be feasible, but if the Rockets can keep both of their stars in the 70-72 game range, while staggering the days they take off so at least one of them is in the lineup for every game, that could be a good combination for both team success in an always tough but wide open Western Conference, while still giving both players sufficient rest to keep them fresh for the postseason.