Just as the Houston Rockets were getting back to full strength, Austin Rivers left the Orlando bubble which puts his status for the NBA restart in question. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Rivers is attending to an “urgent family matter” but hopes to return to Disney this weekend.
“Rockets guard Austin Rivers has left the Orlando bubble due to an urgent family matter, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium,” Charania explained on Twitter. “Rockets’ Austin Rivers expects to return to the Orlando bubble sometime this weekend, sources said.”
Given the NBA’s COVID-19 testing protocols, Rivers’ return to the court is complicated as he will be required to isolate once he returns. Rivers will then likely need multiple negative tests before being cleared to rejoin the team. This timeline could push up against the Rockets’ first game against the Mavericks on July 31.
While not a starter, Rivers is averaging more than 23 minutes a game and is a key rotational player for the Rockets. Yahoo Sports’ Keith Smith detailed why Rivers is an important part of the Rockets roster.
“First, hopefully everything is good with Austin Rivers’ family matter,” Smith tweeted. “As with all things: family first! Basketball-wise: Houston already plays the shortest rotation in the NBA. Not just in height, but players too. Losing any one of them is a pretty big blow to their depth.”
Westbrook Has Been Cleared for the Rockets’ 1st Scrimmage
It is not all bad news for the Rockets as Russell Westbrook has been cleared to play in the team’s initial scrimmage at Disney. Westbrook is expected to be in the lineup as the Rockets square off with the Raptors on July 24.
“Russell Westbrook plans to play in the Rockets’ scrimmage against the Raptors tonight, per a source,” ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported. “He has practiced twice since clearing the NBA’s quarantine protocol.”
Harden on Westbrook: ‘He’s Faster Than Everybody Still on the Court’
Westbrook was a late arrival to the Orlando bubble after testing positive for COVID-19. So far, Westbrook has had a speedy recovery as the All-Star was initially cleared to travel to join the Rockets in Orlando then was quickly given the okay to practice. James Harden, who was also a late arrival to Orlando, says fans should expect the same Westbrook on the court.
“Russell is, like, a creative person,” Harden told USA Today. “You’d think in quarantine, he might be out of shape since he hasn’t been able to work out. But he’s faster than everybody still on the court. He’s still out there dunking. He’s Russell. I’ve known him for so long, he’s just one of those guys that can just get up and doesn’t really have to stretch. He can just go right out there and run and dunk. He looked really good.”
The Rockets have had a bit of a revolving door since arriving in Orlando. With Harden and Westbrook back in the fold, the Rockets will continue to be optimistic when the NBA season resumes.