HOUSTON — The Rockets have labored intently without guard Patrick Beverley over the opening three weeks of the season, but now comes the time where their patience should be validated.
Beverley, who underwent left knee surgery during the preseason, is set to return this week. He practiced on Friday and completed a light training session on Sunday. Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni declared Beverley out against the Philadelphia 76ers for Monday night at Toyota Center, but chances appear great that Houston (5-4) will get a backcourt boost either Wednesday or Thursday.
“Can't wait to play, can't wait to get back with my teammates,” Beverley said. “I've missed them a lot. I've missed being on the road a lot, I miss the team camaraderie a lot. I miss playing basketball, I miss competing so I'm excited to get back this week.”
Article continues below ...
The impact for the Rockets is greater than the 10.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game Beverley provided last season. Beverley is the team's best individual perimeter defender, and his influence on that end of the court has been sorely missed as Houston entered Sunday ranked 27th in defensive rating.
Additionally, Beverley provides D'Antoni the backcourt depth the Rockets have lacked through nine games. Houston has relied on Corey Brewer and Tyler Ennis to fill the void while also heaping a heavy workload on guard James Harden, who on Sunday ranked third in the NBA with an average of 37.8 minutes per game.
Over his last three starts, Harden has averaged 39.9 minutes per game while posting averages of 27 points, 9.7 rebounds and 14.3 assists, including consecutive triple-doubles in a home-and-home set with the Spurs that the Rockets split.
“I haven't completely 100 percent decided on things,” D'Antoni said. “I do know Pat's going to play and he's going to play a lot of minutes so that will change everybody's rotation. And I think it will also give James a couple, three minutes more rest. He's been getting about 39 minutes; that's just too many minutes and we don't want to do that. Pat will be able to alleviate a lot of that.”
The Sixers (1-8) have been far more hamstrung by injuries, not only opening the season without veteran guard Jerryd Bayless (wrist) and young forwards Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ben Simmons (foot), but also managing the minutes restrictions on centers Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid.
Okafor enjoyed his most effective performance of the season on Saturday night in a 117-96 loss to the Hawks in Atlanta, posting season highs in points (18), rebounds (six) and assists (two). Okafor played just under three minutes the previous night against the Indiana Pacers in the Sixers' first victory of the season, and his showing against the Hawks bodes well as Philadelphia continues to bring him along slowly.
“The four-minute chunks that we've been giving him, we extended that,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said after the loss. “I was going to spend my money all to try to get back in this knowing that we may not have him at the end. I felt like the game would leave us otherwise.