The Houston Rockets don’t have to worry about soldiering on without James Harden for much longer. He’s nearing a return from his Grade 2 left hamstring strain.
From ESPN 97.5 in Houston’s Kelly Iko:
James Harden is nearing a return to the court and “should be back soon, anytime next week”, according to a member of his camp who told me this morning.
This puts Harden, who has missed each of the Rockets’ past four games, on track to return within his initial two-week timetable—which comes as great news to all of Houston.
Hamstring injuries can be fickle. They’re written off, oftentimes, as minor setbacks, but they linger. They hinder a player’s speed and mobility. You can see the difference in how someone, anyone, is playing when they try to power through one that isn’t fully healed.
But the Rockets don’t appear to be rushing Harden back. Sure, they need him. And yes, he cares about remaining this year’s MVP favorite. But general manager Daryl Morey and crew are smarter than that. They still have one of the five best records in the league despite their recent defensive slippage—enough of a cushion to let Harden’s injury heal properly.
Maybe things would be different if the Rockets were in danger of slipping outside the Western Conference’s top four. Shoot, things could be different if the Rockets prioritized Harden’s MVP case over their big picture. But we know they’re not doing that. They haven’t once rushed back Chris Paul from one of his own injuries this season, and after getting a taste of what they can be at close to full strength, when Harden was leading one of the two best teams in the league, they won’t do anything to compromise their proximity to the Golden State Warriors.
Ergo, if Harden is nearing a return, it’s because he’s also nearing unconditional health.