HOUSTON — Things were going great for Rockets center Bruno Fernando to begin the NBA’s 2022-23 NBA regular season. He was considered the odd man out heading into training camp with second-year players Alperen Sengun and Usman Garuba set to take over the minutes available with the departure of former center Christian Wood who was traded to Dallas in the offseason.
Yet, he overcame those odds and did what he does best, proving that he belongs on an NBA roster. So, when training camp began, Fernando did everything he needed to show Rockets head coach Stephen Silas that he deserved to be on the court and proved to management that he was worthy of being signed to a contract.
Both things happened to Fernando. Houston signed him to a four-year, $10.9 million contract before the season started, and when the Rockets took the floor against the Atlanta Hawks for their first regular-season game, he heard his name called as the starting center.
Things were going well for Fernando as he finished with 7 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He brought the energy and defense the team needed, even though they lost to the Hawks that night.
His first game was something Houston could build off of and have a one-two punch at center with Fernando and Sengun, but in his second game of action against the Memphis Grizzlies, Fernando went down in the first half with a left knee injury. He missed the next 15 games, but after going through an extensive rehabilitation regimen with assistant coach John Lucas, Fernando is ready to get back on the court.
As Houston Rockets center Bruno Fernando prepares to come back from injured reserve, his HC Stephen Silas says he could see putting Bruno and either Alperen Sengun or Usman Garuba on the court together for a brief amount of time. #LightTheFuse @BrunoFernandoMV @Usmangaruba pic.twitter.com/n7ggjrklyQ
— #SARGE (@BigSargeSportz) November 24, 2022
“I feel great,” Fernando said on Wednesday after practice. “It has been a long time coming but I feel good.”
Even though he has not been given a definite answer on when he will return to the lineup, Fernando is optimistic that it could be very soon.
“Hopefully soon,” Fernando said when asked about his return. “I feel like it has kind of already happened, since I am practicing. I have no idea. I guess that is something that they are going to talk to me about today or tomorrow.”
Suppose Fernando does return on Friday against the Atlanta Hawks. In that case, he won’t be returning to his starting position, as he will be on a minutes restriction and considering the play of Sengun, who is averaging 14.8 points and 8.5 rebounds as the starter.
The backup minutes are also being dominated by Garuba, who has brought the same defense and energy that Fernando does.
One way that Silas could utilize the skill sets of all three of his big men is to have two on the court together in spurts during the game, which Fernando welcomes.
“We will be able to work with each other,” Fernando said regarding the possibility of playing with another center on the court. “Al-P (Sengun) does a good job of setting screens and popping and for me to be another big out there that set the screen and rolls to the rim and brings the different scene, that is going to open a lot more space for our shooters on the court. Usman has been shooting the ball really well. It would open up the court for our guards and shooters.”