The Houston Rockets traded for Ron Artest in the offseason in an attempt to give them some insurance behind injury-prone stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. It’s safe to say the Rockets didn’t anticipate all three players going down with injuries in the same game.
After finishing their last game without any of their top three scorers, the Rockets hope to have them all back on the court Wednesday night when they host the Southwest Division rival Dallas Mavericks.
The Rockets (7-4) acquired Artest in the offseason in part because they needed a third scoring option other than Yao and McGrady, who’ve struggled to stay healthy in recent years.
Yao hasn’t played more than 57 games in any of his last three seasons because of leg and foot problems, and McGrady’s missed nearly as much time with a variety of injuries, mostly to his knee and back.
The trade that brought in Artest looked like a smart one Monday night, when McGrady left Houston’s 100-89 win over Oklahoma City in the opening minute of the second half after aggravating a knee injury and Yao left with 3:29 remaining with a foot injury. Artest, though, joined them on the sideline in the game’s final minute with a sprained ankle.
McGrady’s appeared to be the worst of the three injuries. The two-time NBA scoring champion had offseason surgery to remove loose bodies from his left knee and said Monday night that he was considering shutting it down until he felt better.
“Tonight I went back to square one, even before surgery, is how my knee is feeling right now,” he said.
Despite that pessimistic outlook, McGrady decided to forgo an MRI on Tuesday and instead practiced with the team. His status for Wednesday, though, is still uncertain.
Yao and Artest, each of whom had a double-double in Houston’s last game, both hope to play Wednesday.
“People sprain their ankles all the time,” said Artest, who had 17 points and a season-high 11 rebounds. “It’s not broke.”
That’s good news for the Rockets, who have limited offensive options behind their “Big Three.”
“We don’t need all of them hurt,” point guard Rafer Alston said. “Sometimes teams with three players like that, you may deal with one maybe having an injury because injuries are part of the game. But to have three of them down? We need these guys to be healthy.”
Being healthy could be particularly advantageous against a Dallas team that appears to be putting things together after a slow start. The Mavericks (3-7) have won back-to-back games for the first time this season after dropping their previous five.
With owner Mark Cuban in attendance for the team’s first game since he was charged with insider trading, the Mavericks scored the first 15 points and never trailed in a 100-83 rout of Charlotte on Tuesday night.
“It was a big win for us for sure,” said forward Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 32 points and is averaging 35.5 and 12.0 rebounds in the Mavericks’ consecutive victories.
Nowitzki had a big game against Houston on Oct. 30, scoring 36 as Dallas fell 112-102 at home in its season opener. The Rockets got 30 points from Yao, 29 from Artest and 16 from McGrady in that game.