Report: Rockets fear Chris Paul might miss a month with left knee bruise

Chris Paul could be wearing warmups for longer than the Houston Rockets expected. (AP)

How Chris Paul would mesh with James Harden was one of the most highly anticipated storylines of the 2017-18 NBA season. The blockbuster trade that imported Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers gave the Houston Rockets two of the premier playmakers in the sport, provided Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni a path to 48 minutes of Hall of Fame point-guard play every night, and gave Rockets fans hope that their team might have enough firepower and defensive grit to go toe-to-toe with the defending champion Golden State Warriors come playoff time.

[Now’s the time to sign up for Fantasy Basketball! Join for free]

Less than a week into the new campaign, though, it’s looking like the Rockets’ chemistry experiment is going to have to be put on hold for a little while. From Marc Stein of the New York Times:




Paul reportedly picked up the knock when he banged his left knee in a collision with Mario Chalmers during the Rockets’ Oct. 11 preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies. He suited up on opening night, but limped at times on his way to just four points on 2-for-9 shooting (albeit alongside 11 assists, eight rebounds, two steals and a block) and sat the final 4:47 of Houston’s comeback road win over the Warriors on Tuesday night. The Rockets held him out of their second game, the latter half of a season-starting road back-to-back against the Sacramento Kings, which they won 105-100 on Wednesday.

The Rockets had already ruled Paul out for Saturday night’s home opener against the Dallas Mavericks. But D’Antoni told reporters Friday that the injury didn’t seem overly concerning, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

“It’s only a bump,” D’Antoni said. “It’s not a tear or something like that. It’s a bruise. We just have to make sure he’s 100 percent the next time he plays.

“I don’t think there’s (concern.) All indications are he should be OK.” […]

The Rockets face the Grizzlies in Houston on Monday before opening a three-game road trip.

“We’ll see on Monday,” D’Antoni said of getting his star back. “I think we’re shooting for that, but that doesn’t mean that. This time, we’re going to make sure it’s 100 percent and go from there.”

Whether or not the Rockets are actually “shooting for that,” it sure seems like they’re moving very, very cautiously on CP3’s timeline:



A two-to-four-week absence would keep Paul on ice for between eight and 15 games. That’s survivable — after all, the Rockets do still have Harden, last year’s MVP runner-up and captain of the NBA’s second-most-explosive offense in 2016-17, as well as more-explosive-than-ever Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon and a slew of dynamite shooters to buoy the attack even with CP3 on the shelf.

[Follow Ball Don’t Lie on social media: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Tumblr]

It makes all the sense in the world for the Rockets to view discretion as the better part of valor in managing Paul’s knee. Having the Paul-Harden combination at full strength and in peak form come April, May and June is paramount; as much as D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey would love to have their stars logging as many reps as possible to help them learn how to most effectively work together, the potential risk of rushing a 32-year-old with an injury history back on the court too quickly far outweighs the prospective reward of a few more weeks of shared floor time.

That said, this is certainly not the way the Rockets envisioned starting their new two-point-guard era. A star like Paul, who already faced a significant adjustment when sharing the backcourt with another ball-dominant playmaker, will confront an even steeper learning curve as he looks to get reintegrated to a team that will have developed its own rhythms through the first quarter of the season. But if that challenge comes attached to a higher likelihood that Paul is fully ambulatory and at his near-peerless best when Houston’s games start mattering the most, it’s a cost a Rockets team with championship aspirations will gladly pay.

– – – – – – –

Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!