It’s no secret that the Rockets are halfway through the easiest part of their schedule. The two games against the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Oklahoma City Thunder followed by home games against the 5-win Magic and 6-win (as of this writing) New Orleans Pelicans.
When the schedule was released, this looked to be a fun game between two top 5 picks: Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs. Unfortunately for the weirdos that use single-game matchups to determine player worth, we won’t get an answer tonight as to whom belongs the title of “Best Jalen: Rookie Division.” Green is still out with a hamstring, though he should be re-evaluated soon. Suggs is out with a fractured thumb (that thankfully will not require surgery). Injuries suck, and Adam Silver should ban them.
Besides Green, Houston could be without a couple of key pieces. Kevin Porter Jr. reaggravated his thigh contusion (read: got hit in the same spot) and Christian Wood rolled his ankle against the Thunder on Wednesday. KPJ is questionable and will probably be held out. Wood apparently escaped a more serious sprain, but is also questionable. In terms of good news for Houston, DJ Augustin is able to return after missing both OKC games due to being out due to COVID protocols. He’s the only experienced ballhandler on the Rockets even when KPJ is healthy, so his return comes at a nice time for the team.
The Magic are coming off a win of their own, erasing a 16-point halftime deficit to beat the Denver Nuggets. I know Denver is decimated by injuries, but that’s a great win. Orlando had six players in double figures.
Cole Anthony leads the way for Orlando, who also have Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., Gary Harris Jr., and Mo Bamba. If you’re thinking, “Wow, that sounds like a lot of players who were just barely outside the best players in their respective draft classes,” you’d be right. I used the Pistons and Kings to make my point about how avoiding the process of tanking can ruin decades for a franchise, but I easily could have thrown the Magic in that group. Their most successful years as a franchise came directly after landing the top pick in the draft: Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway (drafted third but traded to Orlando for the top pick), and Dwight Howard. They’ve only drafted in the top 3 one other time, landing Victor Oladipo at #2 in a historically weak draft.
I promise I’ll stop beating this dead horse eventually, but for now I’m going to keep reminding you that while these wins are fun now, I think we won’t look back so fondly on them in June.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest