James Harden out vs. Pelicans with toe sprain
Houston Rockets guard James Harden will miss his first game of the season on Sunday night against the New Orleans Pelicans due to a right toe sprain, according to Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic:
It took a right toe sprain, but James Harden will not play tonight. He and Russell Westbrook (rest) or both OUT. Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon start in their place. Should be interesting to see how the offense looks without its two primary ballhandlers. #Rockets
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) December 29, 2019
Harden was previously listed as questionable.
“The Beard” apparently suffered the injury during Houston’s win over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night, although he told reporters he was “fine,” after the game (via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle):
He appeared to be hurt when teammate Danuel House Jr. tried to draw a charge on Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie on Saturday, with both falling into Harden. Harden’s game-winning 3-pointer and blocked shot on Joe Harris in the final minutes both came after he was hurt.
Harden, who rarely will discuss injuries, said after the game he was fine.
The fact that Harden made the two biggest plays of the game on both ends of the floor after sustaining the injury speaks volumes to his toughness, though there is a chance he aggravated the toe by playing through the pain. Harden scored 44 points and added 10 rebounds in the win.
Houston are suddenly without their three best players as they prepare to take on the Pelicans. Prior to Harden being ruled out, Russell Westbrook was already declared out for “rest,” and Clint Capela will miss his third straight game as he deals with a bruised heel.
The Rockets will get a boost with Eric Gordon back in the lineup. Gordon has not played Nov. 13. Still, it might be difficult to find steady offense without Harden in the lineup.