Houston guard John Wall was champing at the bit last week, eagerly anticipating his first regular season game in two years before COVID-19 protocols put his Rockets debut on pause.
Now that his quarantine is complete, Wall can resume the track he was on before contact tracing forced him to observe the Rockets’ first two games, both losses. Wall will be available when Houston hosts the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.
“We had a couple of practices before with the whole team but it was good,” Wall said of returning to practice. “We all know the plays and stuff like that, we just wanted to get acclimated to each other after they had two games on the road that we had to miss because of quarantine.
“(Practice) was good, and now we’re ready to play tomorrow.”
The Rockets traveled with just nine players for road games at Portland and Denver and will welcome back three of the six players who were in quarantine: DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Gordon and Wall.
There is concern over just how game-ready those veterans will be in what amounts to their season openers. The short-handed Rockets logged heavy minutes and played with verve in an overtime loss to the Trail Blazers, but there is some uncertainty ahead against the Kings.
“It is a process that’s going to continue for a while,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “You would hope that it would be similar (to the Portland game) but as far as the protocols that they’ve been going through up until this point and they haven’t really been working out and been with the team, it’s really hard to say what we’ll see tomorrow with those guys.”
The Kings have enjoyed a surprising 3-1 start to the season, including their 125-115 win over Denver on Tuesday.
Balanced scoring has contributed to that success, with six Kings scoring in double figures paced by guard De’Aaron Fox (20.3 points per game). An unexpected addition to that list: reserve rookie guard Tyrese Haliburton, who is averaging 10.5 points and 5.3 assists in 27.0 minutes off the bench.
Taken 12th overall out of Iowa State, Haliburton arrived with a reputation for maturity. In these early stages of his career, he has showcased an ability to deliver in every facet required.
“He’s got a lot to learn still but there’s something about him when you’re coaching him you feel confident when he’s on the floor that something good is going to happen on both ends of the court,” Kings coach Luke Walton said.
After pairing 12 points with four assists in his debut against the Nuggets on Dec. 23, Halliburton helped the Kings rebound from a loss against the Suns by posting 13 points, six assists and three steals as Sacramento notched a second victory over the Nuggets in seven days. The plan was for Halliburton to contribute as a rookie. Thus far, he has exceeded those expectations.
“He doesn’t get rattled,” Fox said. “He makes big shots — we know he can shoot the ball. We all have the utmost confidence in him to make big plays whether it’s with the ball or off the ball, catch-and-shoot and things like that. We tell him to be aggressive.”
–Field Level Media