No surprise here: More injury woes for the Houston Rockets.
A day after center Yao Ming's bruised right knee kept him from rejoining Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest for a rare appearance together against the Knicks, Artest told CBSSports.com Tuesday that his injured right ankle probably will knock him out of the lineup again. For how long, nobody knows. But Artest, speaking by cell phone from Houston, said one possibility that doctors, trainers, and coaches might consider is shutting him down until after the All-Star break to give his bone bruise a chance to heal for the playoff push.
"I think that’s something that probably the trainers and coaches will think about," Artest said. "They pretty much told me that when I get better, whenever I feel right, that I would pretty much get the OK. They know I want to play, so it’s not a thing where they're saying, 'Hurry back, get ready.' I thought I was ready to come back for the long haul. I guess we got one victory out of it."
Artest, bothered by the sore ankle all season, missed nine of 10 games -- including seven straight -- in an effort to get the ankle to calm down so he can finish the season. The move coincided with the Rockets shutting McGrady down for six games to get his conditioning back and rest his troublesome left knee. Both returned for back-to-back road games against Detroit and New York Sunday and Monday, but Artest said his ankle was so sore against the Knicks that he considered sitting out the second half. He shot 4-for-19, including 1-for-10 on three-pointers.
"I tested it for a couple of days and I thought I'd be Superman," Artest said. "But you never know with these things, especially when it’s a bone bruise. I never had a bone bruise. This is the first time I've gone through this, so it takes some time getting used to. I guess there will be a point in time where you just have to deal with the pain if you can minimize it for that stretch run and see how far it can take you then. We’re just trying to see how long this pain is going to actually last."
Artest will test the ankle at shootaround Wednesday, but described his chances of playing against Philadelphia at home as "pretty slim." Doctors have told him surgery won't be necessary, but he'll have to be re-evaluated on a daily basis to see how long he needs to rest. Given that his recent seven-game absence spanned two weeks, a similar timetable would push him against the All-Star break. Houston's last game before the break is Feb. 11 at home against Sacramento.
The Rockets have struggled with injuries all season, but nonetheless are 10 games over .500 (28-18) heading into a stretch of playing 10 of the next 12 games at home. They've had Yao, McGrady and Artest healthy for only 22 games this season, and also have dealt with injuries to Shane Battier and Rafer Alston -- who called out his teammates as "selfish" and "lazy" after Monday night's loss.
"We’re a coinfident team," Artest said. "Actually, everybody’s really upbeat. It’s not a thing where guys aren’t feeling confident. It's just a shame that I haven't had a chance to show Houston what I can be. Hopefully I can rest and get healthy and show the city of Houston what they've got."