Houston Rockets: 5 takeaways from the 2018-19 NBA season

Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images /
3 of 6
Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images
Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images /

4. Strength and conditioning coaches need to do better

Perhaps the most striking thing about the Rockets’ season is how much time the core players missed games due to injury. The offensive strategy gravitated to so much isolation with Harden partially because key players like Capela, CP3 and Gordon missed time, and that can make it hard to find a groove on a playoff team where contributions from multiple players are essential.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that a lot of injuries can be avoided with the right physical preparation, and that the preparation doesn’t always mean lifting big weights. Sometimes it means extra flexibility work, or light, intermittent conditioning.

Example A of the Rockets’ conditioning problems is Paul, who has missed around one-fourth of the Rockets’ games since signing with the team in July 2017, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. The 34-year-old point guard has had nagging hamstring issues, most notably dating back to last year’s Western Conference Finals. They returned in December 2018 to keep him out for far longer than Houston would’ve liked.

Example B is Gordon, who had some lingering knee issues midway through the season that made Harden’s life even more difficult. While the Beard enjoyed a record scoring stretch, Gordon’s high-octane offense was missed, and it cost Houston some games in the process.

Of course, there are always injuries that are out of players’ control, like Clint Capela’s thumb injury, which cost him a month in 2019. But some of the Rockets’ problems seemed preventable. Along with more mindful attention from the training staff, what’s also required is more initiative from players to take care of their own bodies and know what workloads are too much.

All in all, the Rockets as a whole need to be smarter about the health of the team, and take every measure possible on the strength and conditioning front this offseason to return with a more durable, load-managed team.