It’s official, Nene might have played his last game for the Houston Rockets and maybe in his career. The team announced Monday afternoon that Nene was done for the rest of the playoffs after an MRI revealed that he had a left adductor tear.
Now with game five in round two of the NBA playoffs quickly approaching, coach Mike D’Antoni has the tough task of figuring out how to fill the void left by the 15-year veteran.
During the regular season, the Rockets had a two and a half man rotation at center with Clint Capela and Nene, getting most of the minutes and playing time. They would mix in Montrezl Harrell from time to time, but he was mostly a replacement for Capela when he got injured or Nene when he needed to rest.
When Harrell did get run he did some things very well but as an undersized center he did get taken advantage of on defense.
Harrell can run the pick and roll and finish maybe even better than Capela, the problem is he can’t rebound to save his life.
The options are pretty limited for D’Antoni.
It would have been helpful had the Rockets signed Andrew Bogut, but he did end up getting hurt too. However, not signing another big for depth, now looking back is a little more painful.
Without Nene, the options are keep things as is in the starting lineup and bring Harrell off the bench, or go super small and let Ryan Anderson play center in the second unit, which would mean starting Eric Gordon, like in the second half in game four.
The Rockets do have Chinanu Onuaku and he’ll likely be active on game days going forward, but it’s hard to see D’Antoni turning to an unproven rookie with the stakes as high as they are.
So it’s Anderson or Harrell…
Keep things as is or try and make Gregg Popovich react to another wrinkle in the Rockets offense.
Nene off the bench provided the team with energy and was a scoring threat, Anderson could do that, but Harrell is the energy man between the two.
Rebounding is going to be a problem whether or not Harrell or Anderson is in the game, so if the Rockets are looking to keep things as simple as possible it might be easier to ask the second-year center out of Louisville to step up.
The KISS method (keep it simple stupid) is often the best way to handle every aspect of life, the fancier and more creative you try to get, the more things end up backfiring, I know it happens to me all the time.
Asking Anderson to play center works as a nice gimmick for stretches, but having him do it for the rest of the playoffs could be more harmful than good.
Harrell during the regular season proved he deserved minutes, but it’s just hard to find three centers playing time. Now with Nene out, Harrell can again show D’Antoni that he deserved playing time.
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