Jalen Green, the Rockets No. 2 draft pick, will return to the lineup this week after missing a month with a hamstring injury. The rookie guard will, according to the Rockets, resume his role as starter when he gets back, presumably Thursday in Indiana on the second half of a back-to-back.
Green showed flashes of the greatness that cause the Rockets to select him as the second pick, but he was also wildly inconsistent as can be the case with rookies. He had struggles at both ends of the floor at times, but when his shot is on and he is going downhill to the basket, he is already a dynamic young scorer.
With Green returning, the Rockets are short only Kevin Porter, Jr. in terms of being at full strength and the Rockets are a somewhat different team since Green and Porter went down. From the rise of Garrison Matthews to the waiving of Danuel House, this is still a team searching for answers, but getting Green back will certainly help.
There will be restrictions.
Hamstring injuries are notorious for reoccurring. The team has been perhaps even overly cautious with Green, but he participated fully in practice on Tuesday and showed no issues. He also has had no setbacks during his time out, which is a good sign. But, coach Stephen Silas will certainly take it easy on Green, at least initially. Expect him to ramp up to full minutes within 10 days or so.
How will Green fit?
Much has changed with the Rockets since Green left. His injury coincided with the end of their 15-game losing streak. Since then, the team is 8-5, with some dramatic changes to the lineup. House was waived. Armoni Brooks and Matthews have entered the starting lineup. And Daniel Theis is seeing only spot duty at center. Green is returning to a team that is better than before he left it, and deeper. He'll supplant Matthews in the lineup, but there will be plenty of depth behind him. That should help ease his transition.
As talented as the rookie guard is, he has suffered from serious bouts of inconsistency. He'll flash a 30-point game, but turn around with an awful shooting night and too many turnovers. This is part of the growing pains that come with being a rookie, but Green will need to grow if he wants to help the team get better. His teammates have been good without him. They can be better with him, but he will need to start putting together good game after good game.
We won't know much until KPJ returns.
Still one of the real questions about the Rockets is not just how Porter and Green will play together in the backcourt, but if Porter is really destined to be a point guard. He had improved significantly before going out with the thigh injury that has left him out several weeks. If he can build on that improvement with Green in the lineup, we can finally see some of that growth from the team we've been hoping for since the draft.