Rockets Struggle with Injuries, Chemistry Early in the Season

James Harden joined the growing list of Houstonians with hamstring injuries.
James Harden joined the growing list of Houstonians with hamstring injuries. Photo by Jeff Balke
The Rockets fell 100-89 to Utah on Wednesday night, by far their worst offensive effort of the season. They were missing Chris Paul to the second game of his suspension for the fight in LA and James Ennis was out with a strained hamstring (more on that in a second), but they did close to within five in the fourth until — wait for it — James Harden went down with — wait for it — a hamstring injury.

What is with the hamstring problems in Houston? The Rockets were literally a Paul hamstring away from the Finals last season. It feels like about half the Houston Texans have had an injury to that posterior thigh injury. Is it something in the water?

The good news for Rockets fans is Harden said after the game he did not consider this a serious injury, noting it was not as bad as a similar problem last season. Insert sigh of relief. But, the loss of his presence in Wednesday's game against Utah spelled the death knell for the Rockets.

After Harden left for the locker room. The Jazz ran off ten straight and that was that. Even with solid defense for the first game this season, the Rockets had no answer for Donovan Mitchell, who had 38 points.

At 1-3 on the young season, this team is still clearly a work in progress. They have not had the benefit of their full rotation in any of the first four games, which will likely include Nene, Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight, though in limited roles. Michael Carter-Williams has been on a minutes restriction due to injury. Clint Capela seems to still be getting into game shape after a number of injuries sidelined him in the preseason. Paul has been suspended for two games and now both Ennis and Harden have hamstring problems.

Fortunately, the season is VERY young and the Rockets have loads of time to work it out. Coach Mike D'Antoni hinted he may start Carmelo Anthony on Friday after he started the second half on Wednesday and played quite well. The Rockets are clearly still tweaking lineups and trying to find chemistry. Whatever their plans, they will need to be healthy to do it.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke