Quick note before we get started: I am moving to the Seattle area starting today. That means I will be on the road a lot over the next four days or so. I will try to update the preview if anything comes up, but please bear with me during this time. Thank you.
The Houston Rockets continue their long homestand tonight with a visit from the Portland Trail Blazers. The Rockets began this patch of games by getting blown out by the San Antonio Spurs. Tonight, they get a banged up Blazers team that still has enough talent to run them out of the Toyota Center.
Portland is 20-28 and clinging to the final play-in spot. Much of their talent has been out for extended periods of time. Damian Lillard is recovering from abdominal surgery after spending much of the offseason and early season in trade rumors. CJ McCollum is back after missing several weeks with a collapsed lung. Larry Nance Jr. has a bone bruise that will keep him out until February. Cody Zeller had patellar surgery and may not be back this season. Nassir Little just recently was ruled out for the season with a labral tear. CJ Elleby is doubtful tonight with a leg injury. Robert Covington and Dennis Smith Jr. are questionable with a knee and ankle injury, respectively.
So the Blazers will have McCollum, Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic, and Norman Powell to do the heavy lifting tonight. Tony Snell will also start most likely, which allows me to share one of my favorite stats, which is that Snell has not missed a free throw since the 2018-19 season. Trendon Watford and Ben McLemore fill out the rotation, as might Covington and Smith Jr. if they are available.
Looking around the league at other tanking teams, I am convinced that the Oklahoma City Thunder will never win again. We’re a few weeks away from “Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got a bad haircut so they’re shutting him down.”
In all seriousness, tonight is really about getting Jalen Green going on the offensive end. Green has looked out of sorts lately, and it’s showing up in his numbers. Houston is in a great spot in that they can let the rookie work his way out of the slump. On a contending team, we’d be saying that he should head to the bench and find his rhythm in practice. The whole point of tanking is that you get a chance to let young players experience the ups and downs of an NBA season. And for rookies, those downs can be valleys. However, if Green can find a way out of his slump, it’s going to make him a better player in the long run. The Rockets have to keep believing in the youngster.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest