Rockets' James Harden Will Not Play vs. Pelicans with Toe Injury

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 25: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets reacts after a teammate was called for a foul against the Golden State Warriors during the second half of an NBA basketball game at Chase Center on December 25, 2019 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Houston Rockets superstar guard James Harden won't play in Sunday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans, head coach Mike D'Antoni confirmed to reporters.

Harden is the third starter out of the lineup, joining Russell Westbrook (rest) and Clint Capela (right heel).

So far this season, he's averaging 38.3 points, 7.5 assists and 5.9 rebounds.

After winning the NBA MVP award two seasons ago, Harden arguably had an even better 2018-19 season with an NBA-best 36.1 points per game to go along with averages of 7.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds.

Since both point guard Chris Paul and Capela missed significant time last season, Harden was forced to take on an even greater scoring burden.

That worked to Houston's advantage at times, although they were unable to repeat as the top seed in the Western Conference and fell in the second round of the playoffs to the Golden State Warriors.

The Rockets have a chance to beat anyone when Harden is at his best, though, which is why they can ill afford to be without him for an extended period of time.

The Rockets have been fortunate in that they haven't been without Harden much in the seven seasons since they acquired him from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Before missing 10 games in 2017-18 and four last season, Harden missed a total of just two contests in the previous three seasons combined.

Until Harden returns, Houston will have to lean more heavily on Ben McLemore and Austin Rivers in the backcourt.