Why resting Russell Westbrook is a smart move for the Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

On their second night of a back-to-back, the Houston Rockets plan on resting Russell Westbrook Monday after a blowout loss to the Miami Heat.

According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Houston Rockets plan on taking a cautious approach with their star point guard by resting him Monday night against Memphis. Russell Westbrook underwent knee surgery during the offseason and did not participate in 5-on-5 drills up until training camp.

Last year, Westbrook got off to a slow start after he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in September of 2018. Even though the Rockets have stumbled out of the gate, here’s why this move is best for both the Rockets and Westbrook.

Why this is the right call

The Rockets have long been one of the few franchises that don’t rest their main players often. The only exception to this over the last couple of years was resting Chris Paul. Even then, that was more out of necessity than any organized plan, considering Paul’s injury history. During the offseason, GM Daryl Morey spoke about load management, which is the new catchphrase in the NBA.

In his appearance on The Dan Patrick Show back in July, Daryl Morey said that the Rockets will have a plan put together that will ensure both players are ready for the playoff push: “Yeah, it always is (part of the strategy). We try not to label it… it’ll be a very put-together plan by our staff throughout the season to have our guys peak in April.”

James Harden has resisted the idea of load management over the years, stating “I’m a hooper” when asked about taking nights off. Now in his 30s, though, sitting him and Westbrook from time to time will benefit both in the long run.

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Westbrook will turn 31 on Nov.12 and plays a physical style of play that could easily lead to more injuries going forward. By resting Westbrook on back-to-back nights, the wear and tear on his surgically repaired knee can be minimized over time.

How this helps other teammates

The absence of Westbrook from time to time may also help other Rockets who will be forced to take on more of the offensive load with Russ out. As mentioned, Westbrook didn’t have a lot of practice time with the Rockets in the offseason. This has shown on the court, where the Rockets have struggled with assignments on defense and running a simple offense on the other end.

When you replace a main weapon like CP3 with another one in Westbrook, there are bound to be growing pains. With Westbrook sitting out the game against the Grizzlies, this should give players like Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, and even Harden a chance to get their footing before Westbrook is inserted back into the lineup. This also should give time to players like Chris Clemons, who was one of the few bright spots in the loss to the Heat.

The Rockets have learned all too well what will happen if you go into your most important games during the playoffs without one of your superstars, so a cautious approach is best for the long-term future of the club.

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Let’s hope Houston’s supporting cast shows up in a big way against a 1-4 team in the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday evening.