2018 has already gotten off to an unfortunate start for the Houston Rockets, who announced Monday evening that James Harden has suffered a Grade 2 hamstring strain. Harden will be out a minimum of two weeks, at which point he will be re-evaluated.
The injury happened in the final minute of regulation in Sunday’s overtime win against the Lakers. Harden seems to have tweaked it when his left leg landed after he drove to the basket.
Staying healthy has been one of many strengths for Harden, who has sat for 15 games since being traded to Houston, and only two in the past three seasons.
Losing Harden, who leads the league in scoring (32.3 points per game) and is third in assists (9.1 per game), certainly changes things for Houston’s first-ranked offense. Fortunately, the Rockets acquired an All-Star point guard this summer in Chris Paul—although Paul himself has missed nearly half of the Rockets’ games because of injuries.
Houston has bought itself some breathing room with the second-best record in the West so far (26-9). But things were already getting a little tougher before losing Harden. The Rockets floundered over the past two weeks without two of their starters, going on a five-game losing streak as both Chris Paul and Clint Capela sat for three and four of those games, respectively. Three of Houston’s seven games before Harden is expected to be reevaluated in mid-January come against teams that are .500 or better, including both Golden State and Detroit this week.
Harden’s season has solidified him as an MVP contender once again; he and LeBron James have almost alternated nights as the front-runner. A two-week absence won’t have much of an effect on his campaign, but an extended leave could. Kawhi Leonard, for example, might be fighting with James and Harden if he hadn’t missed 31 games this season.