By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com
HOUSTON – Spend $78.78 million for an All-Star shooting guard who might be the best in the business at closing games?
Spend $87.59 million for an eight-time All-Star center and elite rim protector to give yourself a potent 1-2 offensive punch?
Have all your best-laid plans for a below-the-radar run as a championship contender come undone because the player with the 13th-highest salary on the team goes down with a knee injury?
An MRI showed that Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley tore the meniscus in his right knee Thursday night against the 76ers.
The injury was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
“He has a torn meniscus, we’re not 100 percent sure how bad it is or what action we will take,” his agent Kevin Bradbury told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “We’re going to get to the docs and determine what’s best for Pat and for the organization. We should have some clarity early next week.
“I would say out indefinitely until we know more.”
In a worst-case scenario, Beverley is through for the season. If the injury is not so severe and the rehab process can be sped up, he could return if the Rockets are playing in later rounds of the playoffs.
It was just 10 1/2 months ago when Beverley collided with Russell Westbrook in Game 2 of a first-round series at Oklahoma City. The result was a torn meniscus in Westbrook’s right knee that required surgery and eventually derailed the Thunder, who lost in the second round to the Grizzlies. Westbrook is still working to fully recover from that injury.
For a team that has ridden the All-Star exploits of James Harden and Dwight Howard to the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference playoff race, Beverley plays a critical role.
The 25-year-old Chicago native who was drafted and cut by Heat, then toiled overseas in Russia, puts significant bite into the face of the Rockets’ defense.
Jeremy Lin can step back into the starting lineup and give the Rockets offense, but he is not the tenacious, in-your-face type defender that the Rockets will need in the playoffs to go against elite level point guards such as Westbrook, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry and Mike Conley.
While Lin is flashy and creative and can fill up the basket with points when he gets on a roll, it is the just plain down-to-earth toughness of Beverley that often stands out, especially in a backcourt where Harden does not especially like to play defense.
Coach Kevin McHale said it would be 7-10 days before the Rockets would know a timetable for Beverley’s return.
Beverley has played in 53 of the Rockets’ 71 games, missing time with a hand injury. He has averaged 9.9 points in 31.3 minutes while taking over the starting role from Lin this season, but it’s that defensive bite and overall toughness that the Rockets would miss most. Sometimes it’s the littlest pieces of the puzzle that are hardest to replace.