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NBA PM: Houston Can’t Catch a Break

Just when the Rockets got Dwight Howard back, they may lose Patrick Beverley to a season-ending wrist injury.

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Alex Kennedy tells CineSport that James Harden is his frontrunner for this season’s MVP award, but admits that Russell Westbrook will have a chance to make up ground down the final stretch.

Houston Can’t Catch a Break

The Houston Rockets have been decimated by injuries this season.

James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Donatas Motiejunas are the only Rockets players who haven’t missed a game due to an injury this season (Harden only missed one because of a suspension). Meanwhile, key contributors like Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, Patrick Beverley and Kostas Papanikolaou have combined to miss 126 games throughout this campaign.

To get an idea of how injuries have affected Houston this season, consider that the team will use its 15th different starting lineup of the season tonight as they face the New Orleans Pelicans.

Fortunately, Howard will return to the Rockets’ starting five tonight after missing the last 26 games. However, just when it seemed the Rockets would finally be at full strength, they have lost another starter.

Beverley is out once again, this time with a torn ligament in his left wrist. The point guard could be out for the remainder of the season, according to Yahoo’s Marc Spears and Adrian Wojnarowski.

Beverley injured his wrist on Monday in Houston’s game against the Indiana Pacers. The injury had been listed as a left wrist sprain initially, but then doctors discovered that he had a torn ligament. At the very least, Beverley will miss seven-to-10 days as he’s being reevaluated and weighing his options.

He could be sidelined longer depending on what doctors find when looking at his wrist. The medical staff will decide if he needs season-ending surgery now or if he can postpone it until this summer and play through the injury without making his wrist worse.

“He is going to meet more people today and get a final determination as to what is going to happen,” head coach Kevin McHale said, according to Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle. “There probably won’t be any major decisions made for a week to 10 days, see what happens.

“He has something in his wrist. Like I said, he is meeting another guy today, so we will see what it is and where it goes.”

Jason Terry will start at point guard for the Rockets on Wednesday when they face the Pelicans, with Pablo Prigioni also serving as a significant contributor in Beverley’s absence.

Beverley is averaging 10.1 points, 3.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 56 games this season.

Amazingly, even though the Rockets have dealt with injury after injury and their starting lineup has become a revolving door of players, Houston remains one of the top teams in the Western Conference. The Rockets are 47-23, which is good for the third seed in the conference and the fourth-best record in the NBA.

This is a big reason why Harden is being talked about as a top candidate for this season’s Most Valuable Player award (as I explained in the video above this post).

Harden has put Houston on his back and kept the team in contention, averaging 27.2 points, seven assists, 5.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals. Harden is first in the league in total points, sixth in total assists and fourth in total steals. He also leads the NBA in win shares (13.9) and value over replacement player (6.7).

If Beverley is out for the year, the Rockets will join the list of West contenders that have lost at least one important player to a season-ending injury. The Portland Trail Blazers (Wesley Matthews), Oklahoma City Thunder (Kevin Durant and, potentially, Serge Ibaka) and the Los Angeles Clippers (potentially Jamal Crawford) could all be without a key contributor for the rest of the year.

It remains to be seen how this latest injury will affect Houston down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs. But if how well they’ve overcome injuries the rest of this season is any indication, the Rockets should be okay and remain a legitimate contender in the West.

NBA Announces Two Preseason Games in China

The NBA announced today that NBA Global Games China 2015 will feature two preseason games between the Charlotte Hornets and the Los Angeles Clippers this October.

The Clippers and Hornets will play the NBA’s first game ever in Shenzhen when they meet on Oct. 11 at the Shenzhen Universiade Center, followed by a rematch in Shanghai on Oct. 14 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.  The games in China will be part of NBA Global Games 2015, with additional games to be announced at a later date.

“The Charlotte Hornets are excited to play in NBA Global Games China and help grow the NBA’s brand internationally, while showcasing the strength of our franchise and team to millions of Chinese basketball fans,” Hornets chairman Michael Jordan said.

“Returning to China to participate in the NBA Global Games China is another important step in establishing the Clippers as a first-class international franchise,” Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said. “We are looking forward to representing Los Angeles and the NBA as we bring our exciting brand of basketball to all of our fans in China.”

The NBA in 2004 became the first American professional sports league to compete in China, with two exhibition games between the Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings in Shanghai and Beijing.  Following NBA Global Games China 2015, the NBA will have played 20 games in Greater China since 2004.  The NBA is the most popular sports league in China, and basketball is the nation’s number one team sport, with 300 million people playing the game.

“Basketball is more popular than ever, and Global Games China 2015 is part of our ongoing commitment to growing the game in the world’s most populous nation,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “These games will not only bring the excitement of NBA action directly to Chinese fans, but will also provide the league another opportunity to experience the rich history and culture of China.”

“We are delighted to have two young and talented teams in the Clippers and Hornets showcase the best NBA basketball to our fans in China,” NBA China CEO David Shoemaker said. “We thank the Chinese Basketball Association and the cities of Shenzhen and Shanghai for their support as we continue to work with them to get more boys and girls to play and enjoy basketball and to grow the game in China.”

Sweet Sixteen Previews

Throughout the 2015 NCAA Tournament, Basketball Insiders’ college experts have been previewing every game and predicting the winner. Our latest previews are up, breaking down each game in the Sweet Sixteen.

Find out the keys for each team to win and see who our experts believe will advance to the Elite Eight. We’ve predicted a number of shocking upsets (with one of our experts predicting that Kentucky, Duke and Wisconsin will all go down this round!).

This year, Basketball Insiders brought in some highly respected trainers to contribute to our March Madness coverage. Our NCAA Senior Writer Yannis Koutroupis continues to lead the team, and he’s joined by top basketball trainers Dan Barto and Cody Toppert, who train top professional and college basketball players every year.

Barto has been with the IMG Academy basketball program since 2003. Prior to becoming the Head Skills Trainer, Barto was the IMG Academy basketball program’s Developmental Head Coach. Dan has trained over 100 current or former NBA players and coached over 40 Division I players.

Toppert is a former standout player at Cornell University (one of the top three-point shooters in Ivy League history), who played eight years professionally (NBA D-League, Spain, Italy, Germany) and now serves as the Director of Basketball Development at ELEV|8 Sports Institute (Ganon Baker Basketball Academy). He trains professional players (five 2015 NBA Draftees) and coaches prep schoolers for Ganon Baker’s nationally ranked prep school program.

Be sure to check out our in-depth game previews here so that you know what to expect going into the eight tournament games that will be played on Thursday and Friday.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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