Times have certainly changed in Houston. In what has been an emotional departure, James Harden has dumped H-Town to team up with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn. It hurts losing such a key component of the franchise, but the band aid has been ripped off and now it’s time to heal the wounds.
What remains is a core of new faces. That being said, who is next in line on the Rockets hierarchy? Is it John Wall or Victor Oladipo, both 2017 All-Star guards coming off injuries? Or perhaps DeMarcus Cousins, who’s sat more on the bench than stood on the court? All signs point to Christian Wood, the NBA’s next star.
Wood has started this season on fire, averaging 23.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks on 53 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent from three in his first 12 games as a Rocket. Expect the 6’10” big man to be the glue that holds this franchise together. On a Harden-less roster and surrounded by injury-prone stars, this is his time to shine.
Keep in mind, Wood is only 25 years old and continues to improve his game at a tremendous rate. He is currently in the top 20 in the NBA in points and in the top 10 in both rebounds and blocks. Even though realistically it’s tough-sledding in a stacked Western Conference, his name should be discussed when All-Star selections roll around.
Wood showed his toughness in last night’s defeat at the hands of the Phoenix Suns, returning to the court after spraining an ankle and not only playing, but playing well. In addition, he had the gumption to call Shaq a casual a few nights ago, which is a win in our book at TDS.
Shaq says he wasn’t familiar with Christian Wood’s game before tonight, Christian calls him “a casual”. pic.twitter.com/1GcjouPxIw— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) January 15, 2021
Despite a promising future, Wood’s journey in the NBA has not been easy. It started with the 2015 NBA Draft, the night he went undrafted and was later dumped by his girlfriend. Ironically, his very first opportunity in the league came with the Houston Rockets nearly five years ago, representing them in the Summer League.
From that point on, Wood spent the next five years of his career as a journeyman, struggling to secure a spot on an NBA roster and playing for a new city each year. Wood reached his lowest low when he was cut by the Fujian Sturgeons of the Chinese Basketball League in 2017.
Despite all the setbacks, Wood’s motivation never faded. His work ethic pushed him forward, conquering the challenges of a G-League drifter. It was only last year that he finally got his first big break with the Detroit Pistons, averaging 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds over 62 games. It remains a mystery what would have happened if the Pistons or the Pelicans, who he played for in 2018, allowed him the playing time of a true starter.
Right now, Houston’s playoff chances are looking grim at best. It’s unclear how this new unit will function for the remainder of the season. With Harden gone, imagine that the 2021 season has just restarted.
There are talks of a rebuild, but it’s too early yet to underestimate this year’s squad. Keep in mind, the Rockets are still technically only three wins away from playoff contention. Optimistically, once John Wall gets back, this new lineup may jell together and climb back out of the trenches of the Western Conference. The Rockets could also move some of those draft assets for a big-name player. Or they could continue to toil away toward the bottom of the conference. Despite an uncertain future for the team, one thing is clear, Christian Wood is on the rise.