The Rockets’ star point guard was assessed a technical foul early in the first quarter, tying him with the Los Angeles Clippers’ Marcus Morris for most in the league. Later on in the match, he would become the sole owner of first place in the category.
Westbrook ejected after picking up second technical pic.twitter.com/BCYUd1SqJT— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 21, 2020
Now with a league-high 13 technical fouls, Westbrook is only three technical fouls away from the magical number of 16 and earning himself a one-game suspension. With the Rockets having zero room for error as they look to nab the third seed or higher, they absolutely can’t afford to lose their star.
At the rate Westbrook is going, he’ll be suspended after about 12-14 games, which means he could be missing out against the Sacramento Kings, Chicago Bulls, or the Dallas Mavericks — if averages mean anything. While the Rockets could possibly afford to lose him against the first two teams, they would absolutely need him against the Mavericks. Even worse, after that range of 12-14, the Rockets face the Mavs, Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, and the Mavs again in a eight-game span.
Then there’s the fact Houston has two more back-to-backs left this season, guaranteeing that they’ll be without Westbrook for at least two more games. At this point, the Rockets need a strategy.
While it would be nice to tell Westbrook he can go ahead and get three more techs in the next 12 games and get suspended against the Kings, there’s the little fact that he will be suspended for every two technical fouls he receives after 16. And that’ll be before he has to go on a five-game road stand where fans will surely antagonize him, he’ll have to worry about Giannis Antetokounmpo barreling into him on every drive, and he’ll face his old friend Joel Embiid IN Philly.
There’s only one game the Rockets can truly incentive for Westbrook: the April 7 game against the Mavericks. It’ll be perfect. Houston would have played Dallas for the second time in 15 days. It’ll be on the road against rowdy fans. Dallas could possibly be playing for the same seed as Houston by that point. And, the biggest key, it’ll be on the first night of a back-to-back where the Rockets will face the San Antonio Spurs in Houston the next night. He was going to miss that game anyways, so might as well make it worth your while.
All that we ask is, if he does get to that point, please really do it up. Dunk on someone and hang on the rim for the next minute. Kick a ball in the stands, à la Tracy McGrady. Yell back at the crowd. Do what you gotta do to really make waiting for sweet No. 16 really worth it, but — hey — let’s keep it classy.
Luckily for the Rockets and Westbrook, those Ts don’t roll over into the playoffs, and he would need at least 28 games to reach the seven techs that would get him suspended — but who cares when Houston needs only 16 games to win a chip.