The Houston Rockets may have lost their last game to the Golden State Warriors, but as of Thursday this team has clinched at least the fourth seed in the Western Conference and will almost certainly finish third. Houston needs a combination of three wins or Utah losses to clinch that third seed, and the Rockets have easy games down the stretch against the Timberwolves, Kings, and Suns who should be preparing to tank for the rest of the season.
All of these factors would make it seem that the Rockets will rest down the stretch, especially with Harden clearly struggling with an injured left wrist. But the Houston Chronicle reported that “Harden said he had no intention of sitting out to remove himself from harm’s way.” When you consider that Patrick Beverley, the heart and soul of this Rockets team, recently went on a rant where he declared that the trend of resting star players is “a disgrace to this league” and “disrespecting the game”, it is hardly surprising that Harden will get out there and play his hardest every game.
Too Much Rest or Not?
Harden’s decision to play is not just macho bravery. The Chronicle noted that Harden has been told that he cannot do more damage to his wrist by playing and it is the kind of injury which will not be healed by just sitting out for a few games. And Harden has been nothing if durable, as he has not missed a single game from injury in the past three seasons (he was suspended for one game in 2014-15 for whacking LeBron James in the groin).
But resting is not just about healing injuries. It is about preventing injuries which could happen by staying on the court. Think about Derrick Rose, who suffered the ACL injury that ruined his career by playing when the Bulls were up by 12 with less than 90 seconds left. This is great information if you are betting on the game. You could make more money on the Kentucky Derby, however. Learn more on how to bet on Kentucky Derby and you’ll see for yourself.
Harden’s wrist may not heal by resting for a game or two, but he undoubtedly has other bruises or bumps which could get better given a little time. At minimum, Harden would not be hurt by taking a game or two off, especially if the Rockets have nothing to play for.
But while the Rockets have nothing to play for in the final games of the season, Harden very well may. The NBA MVP race is close as ever, especially since Russell Westbrook just broke the NBA record for most points in a triple double with 57 – a record which Harden had attained earlier this season. Given how close this MVP race is, even missing a few games down the stretch could tip the balance one way or the other. And in addition to the pride of the award, Nate Duncan suggested that Harden could have a clause in his Adidas contract which would pay him more if he wins the MVP.
Harden is tough, durable, and the best Rocket to play since the Dream himself. But when the Rockets clinch the third seed and have nothing to play for, he should seriously consider taking some time to rest and get ready for the playoffs. A MVP is great, but Harden’s legacy will fundamentally be determined by what he can accomplish in the playoffs.