The time has finally arrived for the Houston Rockets to take the court for an actual game, even if it is just a pre-season game. Nevertheless, the New Orleans Pelicans will take the floor at Toyota Center Saturday night for the opening day of the NBA’s pre-season.
The buzz will be around how Dwight Howard looks in the Rockets’ offense, and how he seems to fit into the new system. However, he will be on a minutes limit, as will the rest of the established rotation players. That includes James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley, Donatas Motiejunas, and Terrence Jones.
With so much anticipation and hype for the Rockets this season, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Saturday night’s matchup is just a pre-season game, and both teams are looking to get adjusted to their new look rosters.
Omer Asik has been ruled out, as he continues to deal with a calf injury that he suffered earlier in the week during practice. Both Francisco Garcia and Marcus Camby will not suit up for the game as well, as both players are still recovering from injuries they suffered before training camp began.
Rockets Starting Line-up Means Nothing
The quartet of Lin, Harden, Parsons, and Howard will be in the starting line-up and will remain so when the regular season tips off on Oct. 30, barring any injury. The power forward spot still remains a mystery. There could be bevy of options: Jones, Motiejunas, or the shifting of inserting Parsons at the 4-spot and Beverley starting at point guard, with Lin and Harden each moving down a spot. The latter seems unlikely as coach Kevin McHale will want to maximize minutes in the pre-season for both Jones and D-Mo to get a clear sense as who should be the starting power forward coming out of pre-season. Whatever starting five is rolled out will most likely not be the same group when the Charlotte Bobcats come to town to start the regular season.
The next 20 days will give players on the bubble of making the rotation a chance to showcase what they have. The wing rotation off the bench remains unsettled. With Garcia sitting out, Reggie Williams, Ronnie Brewer, and Robert Covington will have ample time to make a claim for rotation minutes in the season. Aaron Brooks has looked impressive during training camp so far, and will get some minutes to prove if he can legitimately challenge Beverley for the back-up point guard spot. Omri Casspi has to prove if he can be that stretch-4 that the Rockets were looking for when he was signed, and Greg Smith has to prove if he can be a consistent rotation player in the NBA. With Asik and Camby out, Smith will get the bulk of minutes as the back-up to Howard at center.
A Potential New Southwest Rival
While the focus was mainly on the Rockets this off-season, the Pelicans quietly put together a nice team with major upgrades. The additions of Jrue Holliday and Tyreke Evans have put the young New Orleans team in the playoff discussion, and with the development of Anthony Davis, a dangerous Big 3 is in the making.
The Pelicans are also kicking off a new era in their franchise Saturday evening, as they are now sporting a new team name, jerseys, and court design. It’ll be interesting to see how they adjust to these new pieces.
Tip-Off Time: 7:00 PM CST
TV: CSN Houston